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Regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Cyclone Amphan: Bengal looks for loan to fix river embankments

Although primary restoration has already been done, the govt is keen on strengthening the structures to minimise the possibility of floods in the coming months

Pranesh Sarkar Calcutta Published 04.08.20, 02:25 AM
A village flooded by Cyclone Amphan in the Sunderbans in May.

A village flooded by Cyclone Amphan in the Sunderbans in May. File picture

The Mamata Banerjee government has started discussions with Nabard (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) and the World Bank to secure a loan of Rs 2,000 crore to undertake permanent restoration of a large stretch of river embankments breached during Cyclone Amphan.

A total of 170km of river embankments, mainly in South 24-Parganas and North 24-Parganas, had been breached during the cyclone.

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Although primary restoration of the breached embankments has already been done, the government is keen on strengthening the structures to minimise the possibility of floods in the coming months.

“But at least 140km of the embankments needed permanent restoration. The work would require a sum of about Rs 2,000 crore. The state does not have the required funds. Discussions are on to secure a loan from either Nabard or World Bank,” said a senior government official.

Embankments of permanent nature means earthen embankments covered with concrete armours so that they can bear the sudden gush of water during a calamity like cyclone.

Sources said a large portion of the breached embankments needed permanent restoration as those are located at vulnerable places and the primary restoration would not be able to save hundreds of nearby villages in case of a flood.

“South Bengal districts usually face floods in September. So, ideally we should complete permanent restoration of the embankments before September. But lack of funds might prevent us from completing the work,” said another official.

The sources said the top brass of the government had been informed about the situation and that’s why the chief minister had urged the Niti Ayog to send a team of experts to prepare a master-plan for the Sunderbans.

“It is impossible for the state to shoulder the burden of erecting permanent embankment on its own after spending nearly Rs 6,500 crore for Amphan relief. The state expected the Centre’s assistance but at the same time it is not sitting idle and trying to raise funds from other sources too,” said an official.

Erecting permanent embankment after Amphan could be an important political issue in the 2021 Assembly polls as fresh inundation because of weak structures could give a weapon to the Opposition in areas like Sagar, Namkhana, Hingalganj, Patharpratime and Sandeshkhali, which are known to be strong Trinamul bastions and also has a record of regular flooding.

Sources in the irrigation department said erecting permanent embankments in the Sunderbans would not be that easy even if funds were arranged quickly. “It would require environment clearance before we start the work. If concrete armours are laid on the embankments, there will be little scope for planting mangroves. This would disturb the biosphere of the area. So, we have to be very selective about where to erect permanent embankments,” said a source.

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