Video Editor: Varun Sharma
Cyclone Amphan made landfall in West Bengal on 21 May, leaving behind a trail of destruction along the coastline. Lives lost, homes smashed, trees uprooted, losses worth thousands of crores – the aftermath of Amphan was unimaginable.
The fragile delta of Sunderbans, a UNESCO world heritage site, is one of the worst affected by Cyclone Amphan, After Amphan made landfall, the sea water breached mud embankments and entered into villages, submerging acres of agricultural land and ponds, destroying crops and killing the fresh water fish.
The salty water has rendered the land infertile and it will be several years before these farm lands can be used for cultivation again.
“Close to 2,500 people are severely affected. Our fields have been destroyed, crops have been destroyed. The fish have died. Everything is lost.”Nobin, Resident of Madhya Gurguria village, Lost his farm Land In Amphan
Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove wetland, is a unique place. It is the delta where River Ganga enters the sea. It stretches across southern Bengal and a huge portion of it falls in neighbouring Bangladesh. Sunderbans is made of several smaller islands and about 45 lakh people call it their home.
Lakhs of farmers are estimated to have been hit by Amphan. These villages had faced the fury of Cyclone Aila in May 2009. They had seen their homes, their farm lands and their source of livelihood get ravaged. It took them more than a decade to rebuild their lives, only to see a bigger horror unfold.
‘We Have Lost Everything’
Through Swaraj Abhiyan president Yogendra Yadav’s team, The Quint was able to hear the voices of residents of Madhya Gurguria village, which has faced the fury of Amphan.
“This is nothing like Aila or Bulbul. Houses are damaged, crops are ruined, the fish have died, trees are uprooted. Acres of land is under water now. Vegetables in the field are completely destroyed. We have lost everything. We can’t fathom the extent of the losses.”Subodh, Resident of Madhya Gurguria village, Lost his farm Land In Amphan
Madhya Gurguria village is located in Kultali Tehsil of South Twenty Four Parganas district in West Bengal, India. Residents of this village practice farming and fish farming for a living. Farmers said that their okra, gourd and pumpkin crops were fully grown but everything was ruined in just a couple of hours before their eyes.
“Salty seawater has entered agricultural land and fresh water ponds. We had planted bitter gourd, okra, pumpkin and sponge gourd in acres of land. Everything is destroyed. My brother spent Rs 7,000 on it recently. Everything is lost. The plants had grown, but were all uprooted due to Amphan. Look at how all the fish have died.”Nobin, Resident of Madhya Gurguria village
‘Mud Barricades Needed Repair But Work Progressed at Slow Pace’
When Amphan made landfall, the 32 embankments which prevented the sea from coming into the land were breached. Villagers complained that the administration was aware that the mud barricades needed repair but work was still progressing at a very slow pace.
“The administration was aware that the barricades needed repair. Repair work was being done at a slow pace. Work was anyways getting delayed. Then, work stopped due to the lockdown. Due to the cyclonic storm, the seawater breached the mud barricades and entered the agricultural land.”Resident and Affected Fish Farmer of Madhya Gurguria village
‘Extent of Calamity Unimaginable’
Within Sunderbans, the areas most affected by Amphan are Ghoramara Dweep, Kakdwip, Namkhana and Bakkhali in South 24 Parganas. While massive rescue and relief operations are still underway in these areas, there are several stretches where relief work is yet to begin.
Avik Saha, general secretary of Swaraj Abhiyan and National Convenor of Jai Kisan Andolan explained how Sunderbans is a fragile stretch and usually the most affected in any cyclonic storm in the area. He also appealed to the people of the country to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable residents of the affected areas.
“Sunderbans was one of worst affected because the landfall of the cyclone happened there. Seawater has completely destroyed cultivation land and it will be several years before these lands can be used for cultivation again. In many areas, local administration and NDRF has not even been able to reach. The extent of calamity is beyond imagination and beyond the few pictures that we have seen. I call upon the nation to stand with Sunderbans, to stand with Bengal in this grave hour of crisis.”Avik Saha, General Secretary of Swaraj Abhiyan