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Pottery threat to Majuli riverbank - Potters urged to shift to terracotta

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  • Published 26.02.11

Jorhat, Feb. 25: The famed and ancient pottery industry of Majuli is turning out to be its bane, as cutting of earth for clay is compounding the problem of erosion by the Brahmaputra.

This has prompted the Brahmaputra Board, which is involved in several anti-erosion projects on the island for several years now, to request the administration to take corrective action.

The Majuli sub-divisional administration has been contemplating imposition of Section 144 at Salmara, where more then 300 families are engaged in this industry to stop digging clay from the riverbank.

Jatin Mazumdar, a senior official of the Brahmaputra Board working on the island, told The Telegraph today that the potters were digging up a large quantity of earth on the bank of the river and thus inviting speedy erosion.

“If this is not stopped immediately, large chunks of soil will be lost to the river regularly. We have requested the sub-divisional administration to take necessary steps in this regard,” Mazumdar said.

He said constant digging in the Salmara area has made the soil loose, thus increasing the intensity of erosion in the area.

The pottery industry is probably the single most important heritage of Majuli, which is vying for a World Heritage Site tag.

Pots are made from beaten clay and burnt in driftwood-fired kilns while the women labourers shape the pots.

The finished products are ferried up and downstream on country boats as far as Sadiya and Dhubri.

Archaeologists say the pottery industry in Majuli has been a “missing link” between Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilisations, during which the pottery industry flourished.

Majuli sub-divisional officer Krishna Baruah, while admitting the seriousness of the problem, said she has requested the villagers to shift to terracotta so that they need not have to dig for the hard soil on the riverbank.

“We have also said we would train them to shift to terracotta, but the potters are not ready to give up on this ancient industry,” Baruah said.

Rampant erosion by the Brahmaputra has reduced Majuli to less than 50 per cent of its habitable land in the past few decades.

Official sources said over the last six decades, the habitable land of the island has decreased from 1,226 square km to 576 square km because of unabated erosion.

The Brahmaputra Board official said in Salmara, which is one of the worst affected areas on the island, nearly 100 square metres of land have been gobbled up by the river over the past few months in some areas.

Recently, the satradhikars of Majuli also appealed to the families involved in the pottery industry to keep away from rampant digging of soil, which has added to the erosion.

“The families involved in the pottery industry should find an alternative in the greater interest of Majuli,” the satradhikar of Auniati Satra, Pitambar Debo Goswami, said.