Houses Swept Away by Ganga in WB, But Is Anyone Listening? 

The fisherman community is river erosion’s worst victim.

My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Video Producer: Debayan Dutta

Sanyalchar village in West Bengal’s Nadia district is affected by river erosion every year.

In June, we visited the village and spoke to the locals about the problems it causes. Located in Simurali, the inhabitants of Sanyalchar are mostly farmers, fishermen and boatmen by profession.

For the locals, Ganga is a necessary evil. 
For the locals, Ganga is a necessary evil. 
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

Due to occupational reasons, most of the people reside near the river which unfortunately, makes them a victim of erosion.

While locals feel monsoon is the source of all their problems and blame heavy rains for raising the water level of the Ganga, there is more to the story of why their houses wash away year after year.

Hydrological and socio-economic factors such as geographical location, topography, extreme climate variability, poverty incidence and dependency of agriculture have made Simurali a ‘climate vulnerable’ spot.

Climatic changes like global warming also contribute to the rise in sea level, causing the Ganga to overflow and cause destructive floods. The river bank is further eroded because of soil stratification of the river bank, the high load of sediment, difficulty of dredging, and the construction of Farakka Barrage as an obstruction to the natural river flow.

Locals say that their houses are destroyed time and time again. They are forced to migrate to the nearby sandbanks, build a new house and live with the fear of it being swept again.

But what could they do? They aren’t financially stable enough to buy land in the upper areas.

They then migrate to the nearby chars (sandbanks) and settle with the hope that this is the last time they’d have to move.

The houses in these sandbanks are mostly made of bamboos and straws.
The houses in these sandbanks are mostly made of bamboos and straws.
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

Khokan Biswas, a fisherman whose house has been destroyed at least six times, puts it aptly:

“Our condition wasn’t like this before. We had a house, we had land. But now everything has been washed away and destroyed. As soon as the tide comes, our house will be destroyed again.”
Khokon Biswas. 
Khokon Biswas. 
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

The government has tried to help the people of Sanyalchar by installing sand-filled sacks as protection for river erosion. However, these remedies are not permanent.

Yet, there is hope.

‘How Long Till We are Rehabilitated?’

Most of the people told us that the government gives a considerable amount of money to the affected people as part of a housing scheme so that they could build their houses at other places. However, that money is not enough to suffice the problems of their abode.

Sandbanks were earlier used for cultivation. Due to erosion, these lands are now used for both living and farming.
Sandbanks were earlier used for cultivation. Due to erosion, these lands are now used for both living and farming.
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

This, however, is a time consuming process and doesn’t consider the emotional and financial attachment that the fisherman community has to their land. Members of the new ruling party have given them hope for better results but most of them believe that things will remain as they are. A farmers tells us helplessly,

“Our homes have been washed away three to four times, we even shifted villages. It is an appeal to the government to find a solution. Whatever the government will say, we will do it.”

(The authors are students of English, and Journalism at Calcutta University. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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