Swollen Ganga threatens Bhutni - Distance blamed for lack of anti-erosion work

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  • Published 28.07.11

Malda, July 27: The Farakka Barrage has washed its hand off the Bhutni Island, saying that it was too far away from the mainland to carry out anti-erosion work and special permission was needed from the Centre to extend the agency’s jurisdiction.

The barrage, however, covers Manikchak, 20km from Bhutni.

The Bhutni island, in the middle of the Ganga, is home to around 80,000 people who fear that the embankment may give away any moment.

The general manager of the barrage, who visited the island today, said it was difficult for them to travel 80km daily for anti-erosion work.

“Today we visited the affected areas of Bhutni where the Ganga has come close to the ring embankment and is causing consistent erosion. It is a tough situation but right now, we, the Farakka Barrage authorities, do not have much to do. We are taking care of the banks and the embankments till Manikchak, 40km away from the barrage. If we need to take care of Bhutni then we need permission from the Centre,” Arun Kumar Sinha, the general manager of Farakka Barrage, said.

The embankment that protects 27sqkm of the island is made of soil and boulders. In 1997, when it was built, the Ganga was 2km away. But the swollen river has gobbled up most of the land and now in some places the distance between the embankment and the river is barely five metres.

“We do not have funds constraints or other problems and we can start anti-erosion work if ordered by the Centre. We, however, have some infrastructure problems like shortage of engineers. It is troublesome for us to travel around 80km by road and work in the locality,” Sinha said.

The island which is 63sqkm does not come under the jurisdiction of the Farakka Barrage or the state irrigation department. Around 500 metre has been washed away across a 3-km stretch in Bhutni, 40km from Malda. According to the census this year, the population of of the island, 60km from Farakka, is 85,000.

“Residents are worried because they do not know how long the embankment can withstand the water pressure. In case there is a breach the entire island would be affected,” said South Malda MP Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury, who also visited Bhutni today.

“We will soon take up the issue with the Union minister for water resources and ask him to hand over the entire stretch till Bihar to the Farakka Barrage authorities,” Abu Hashem said.

The state government has handed over the task to check erosion from Farakka barrage till Manikchak — a 40km-stretch — to the barrage authorities. Officials of the state irrigation department said they have prepared a plan of Rs 110 crore for the protection of Bhutni. “Tomorrow we have a meeting at the chief engineer’s office in Calcutta where the issue of erosion at Bhutni and our project would be discussed in detail,” Majumdar, the executive engineer said.

“We are waiting for an approval (from the Centre) to initiate work to protect these areas,” Majumdar added.