No short cut
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- Published 8.11.13
|Villagers, including school children, travel on rafts at Purtishibpur and (right) women in Bhabanipur in Udaynarayanpur cross a flooded field to get food from the relief camp|
After the October 16 deluge when Amta II and Udaynarayanpur blocks of Howrah were once again submerged following the release of excess water by Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), the state irrigation department got working on a new plan to control the perennial floods in these areas. The much-hyped short cut channel that was dug during the Left Front government’s regime to control floods in these areas, had failed miserably. The channel connected the Damodar river to the Roopnarayan river so that the water released by DVC would flow into the latter without flooding Amta II and Udaynarayanpur blocks.
The 26 km long and 300 meter wide channel was dug from Thalia in Amta connecting Damodar river to Roopnarayan at Bakshi in Bagnan. The channel was completed in 2008. But Amta II and Udaynarayanpur blocks continue to be flooded by the water released by DVC. Nine gram panchayats of Udaynarayan-pur and seven gram panchayats of Amta II were submerged after DVC released 1,65,000 cusecs of water on October 16.
“This is because the short cut channel can only carry 30,000 cusecs of water. Naturally, whenever DVC releases more than 30,000 cusecs of water the two blocks in Howrah are submerged. So we have decided to take up a comprehensive project that will permanently solve the problem of floods here,” said Rajib Banerjee, the state irrigation minister. He added that a consulting agency, the Consultancy Engineering Service (CES), was engaged to prepare a total survey report.
The channel, however, is not without its uses. “More areas would have been submerged by the flood water had not the irrigation department desilted the short cut channel before the monsoon. But we want a permanent solution to the flood problem,” said Babu Haque, joint secretary, Nimna Damodar Bannya Pratirodh Prastuti Committee. He claimed that the short cut channel near Bakshi was left unfinished for a long time due to the indifference of the irrigation department officials during the erstwhile Left Front regime.
“However, now with the change of guard at Writers’, the irrigation department appears sincere about controlling floods in the lower Damodar area,” said Bimal Dalui, a social worker.
A section of the officers had proposed raising the level of Amta-Dihibhursut Road as a temporary measure for controlling the floods as the road ran within one-and-half kilometers of the west bank of Damodar. According to the proposal, if the level of the road is raised by a meter, the water released by DVC will stop near the road and vast areas of Amta II and Udaynarayanpur will escape the surging flood waters. The state irrigation department, however, rejected the proposal because the people living in the one-and-half kilometer area between the west bank and the Amta-Dihibhursut Road, would bear the worst of the floods.
Besides, according to an earlier instruction from DVC and the National Water Control Commission (NWCC), both the banks of the Damodar could not be raised or strengthened. The DVC and NWCC had categorically instructed the West Bengal government after the completion of the Maithon dam in 1957 that the state government could either raise the right bank or the left, but not both.
The then state government, under Dr Bidhan Ray’s chief ministership, opted for raising the left bank to save urban areas like Domjur, Salap, Amta II, Jagatballavpur and other areas. “Since we cannot raise the height of the right bank of Damodar, as agreed by the then state government, we decided to dig the short cut channel. But that failed to serve its purpose,” said a senior irrigation department officer.
The irrigation minister, however, continues to harp on raising the west bank of Damodar as a means to averting floods. “We are trying hard to find a permanent solution to the flood problem. We are planning to raise and renovate the west bank of Damodar and widen the short cut channel,” said Banerjee.
The irrigation officials however, expressed doubt over whether the DVC and the NWCC would allow the state irrigation department to raise and renovate the west bank of Damodar as it falls within the spillover zone of the DVC. “In such a situation, the only option is to widen the short cut channel by at least another 100 meters so that it can carry at least 1,50,000 cusecs of water,” said an official.
The residents of Amta II and Udaynarayanpur, however, continue to live in hope that a solution to the flood problem will soon be found.
“Our survival is closely linked to the implementation of the Lower Damodar project. We cannot grow aman crops due to floods during monsoon. We cannot grow boro crops for want of water in summer. This time we are hopeful that the present young and energetic irrigation minister will do everything in getting the lower Damodar project implemented,” said Kishore Patra, a farmer of Amta II.
|(From top) A trolley van carrying flood victims through knee-deep water near Shiagori More at Amta; state irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee and MP from Uluberia Sultan Ahmed inspect flood-affected areas of Udaynarayanpur and dredging of the short cut channel on at Udaynarayanpur. Pictures by Anup Bhattacharya|