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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Residents fear loss of homes, farms as Ganga gobbles up land of entire panchayat in Malda

Students and teachers of the local high school and the attached primary school are afraid that both educational institutions would be swallowed by the river

Soumya De Sarkar Malda Published 17.08.21, 01:59 AM
Erosion in Durgaramtola, a village under Birnagar-I panchayat of Kaliachak-III block in Malda.

Erosion in Durgaramtola, a village under Birnagar-I panchayat of Kaliachak-III block in Malda. Soumya De Sarkar

Residents of nearly 40 localities in all 12 villages under Birnagar-I panchayat of Kaliachak-III block in Malda are fearing the loss of their homes and farms as the Ganga is fast gobbling up land of the entire panchayat.

Students and teachers of the local high school and the attached primary school are also afraid that both educational institutions would be swallowed by the river.

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In all, around 70,000-odd residents of the panchayat, some of them homeless, are fearful that the entire panchayat area would be wiped off the map of Malda district.

Residents said for the past five years, erosion has been a major threat for the panchayat, but the severity is more these past couple of years.

“Residents of Lalutola, Hochatola, Bhimagram, Sarkartola, Chinabazar, Durgaramtola, Hatichapa and other villages can’t sleep at night as any time their houses might be swallowed by the mighty river. Some 14,000 families live in this panchayat and over the past few years, erosion has affected around 3,000 families,” said Rajib Sheikh, a local youth Trinamul leader.

Rajib believes that the existence of all 12 villages of the panchayat area is at stake.

“The way the Ganga is advancing, it seems that today or tomorrow, the entire Birnagar-I panchayat would disappear. All residents are now desperate to find safer places,” he said. “Most are marginal farmers or daily wage earners.”

Villagers have sent requests to the administration and state government for initiatives to save land and homes.

Jiaul Haque, the headmaster of the primary school, said the situation was critical. “In past two-and-a-half months, the river has devoured at least 250 houses. We are now concerned over the fate of the local high and primary schools as the Ganga is 100 metres away from the buildings,” he said. The primary school, set up before Independence, has 609 students now. The high school, set up in 1955, has around 4,000 students.

The teachers, he said, have written to the state education department for alternative land for new buildings.

Erosion has forced around 1,000 people to live in relief camps or makeshift shanties.

District administration officials said they were aware of the situation. “The issue has been taken up with the Farakka Barrage Project Authority entrusted with anti-erosion work,” said a source. “Unless water recedes, no major anti-erosion work can be done.”

Rajarshi Mitra, the district magistrate of Malda, said even last year, land was given to erosion victims. “We are in search of alternative land to be given for accommodation of those who recently lost their homes in erosion,” the DM said.

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