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How prepared are we for a cyclone: Status of some vulnerable stretches of dykes and banks that need protection to combat

Since Cyclone Mocha is likely to hit Bengal and Odisha between May 8 and 9, H.K. Dwivedi asks DMs to undertake repair work on dykes

Subhasish Chaudhuri And Anshuman Phadikar Published 08.05.23, 05:28 AM
 A protective guard wall being erected with tetrapods at the Sagar Island

A protective guard wall being erected with tetrapods at the Sagar Island Picture by Mehaboob Gazi

With days remaining for the season’s first cyclonic storm that is likely to hit the coastal stretches of Bengal next week, the state government has geared up to protect the earthen dykes, undertaking repair work on a war footing. But a funds crisis, shortage of time and poor feasibility of projects have emerged as impediments. Since Cyclone Mocha is likely to hit Bengal and Odisha between May 8 and 9, chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi has asked the district magistrates to undertake repair work on the dykes. Senior irrigation officials in Calcutta, however, expressed helplessness and said no work of such a “big volume” can be taken up on such short notice, although they acknowledged the “vulnerability and threat”. In the absence of technical sanction and allotment of funds, the department has asked its eligible contractors to carry out “patchwork” on a post-facto basis. State irrigation minister Partha Bhowmik said: “I have conveyed necessary instructions to take up all possible protective measures to combat the possible cyclone and save lives and properties of common people”.

The Bidyadhari river in Nazat, Sandeshkhali-I block, North 24-Parganas

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Length of embankment: Approximately 5km

Number of villages protected by dykes: 20

Status of repair: No work could be taken up as the ground is too weak to sustain even patchwork. Fishing bheries on one side and eroded bank on the other have turned the earthen dyke into a sliver. Irrigation officials said the stretch required a guard wall that would need a few crores to build.

Official response: Higher authorities acknowledged the need for funds and the technical problems. No work has started yet, an irrigation official said

The Dasha river in Dholkhali, Sandeshkhali-I block, North 24-Parganas

Length of embankment: 500m

Number of villages protected by dykes: 5

Status of repair: Earth-piling work with bamboo poles has been done as a protective measure. But villagers think the dyke is too weak to resist the impact of waves during high tide or cyclonic winds.

Official response: Dilip Mullick, the pradhan of the Sandeshkhali gram panchayat, said: “Some patchwork was done. Nevertheless, the stretch remains vulnerable since the condition of the earth is very poor.”

The Sankarpur-Tajpur marine drive — a concrete sea bank with a metal road in East Midnapore

Length of embankment: 3km

Number of villages protected by dykes: 50

Status of repair: The stretch suffered major damage last year. Repair work was recently done at a cost of Rs 85 crore. Work still continuing on a small stretch.

Official response: The pradhan of the Talgachari-II gram panchayat, Biswajit Jana, said: “The sea waves are very strong in this zone. The stretch suffered major damage during Cyclone Yaas. We are concerned about the fresh cyclone threat, but are hopeful that this time it will be able to resist the impact of the big waves.”

The Gopalpur bank on the Bay of Bengal, Deshapran block in East Midnapore

Length of embankment: 5km

Number of villages protected by dykes: 25

Status of repair: No protective work taken up so far since the dyke suffered damage last year. Villagers demand concrete dams. Irrigation officials have examined the porous stretches to chalk out measures to provide protection.

Official response: “This stretch requires permanent protective work, which is not possible in such a short time. Moreover, there is a paucity of funds. However, for immediate protection, we have examined the stretch and what is needed will be done,” an irrigation official said.

Bankimnagar on the Muri Ganga, South 24-Parganas

Length of embankment: 500m

Number of villages protected by dykes: 6

Status of repair: Patchwork was taken up to protect the damaged portion. But villagers say it is too weak to prevent inundation in the wake of high tidal waves.

Official response: This stretch remains vulnerable throughout the year. So, permanent protective measures have been planned. The work will be taken up after monsoon, an irrigation official said.

Ganga Sagar Beach-II, Bay of Bengal, Sagar Island in South 24-Parganas

Length of embankment: 450m

Number of villages protected by dykes: A vast beach that accommodates the Kapilmuni temple, business establishments, the Gangasagar mela ground and and pilgrims’ tents

Status of repair: A protective guard wall being erected with tetrapods, a concrete wave-breaker, 70 meters into the sea. The objective is to dissipate the force of incoming waves before they strike the banks. Work is expected to be completed by next week.

Official response: “The last two cyclones caused major damage to the beach and inundated the temple and adjacent establishments. We are working hard to avoid any repetition this time,” Sagar BDO Sudipto Mondal said

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