The encroaching Ganga and social conflicts: The case of West Bengal

This report deals with the social conflicts emerging out of the encroachments owing to the change in course of the Ganga upstream and downstream of the Farakka barrage. The barrage was built with the intention of diverting water into the Hugli river with a view to flush the sediment load into the deeper part of the estuary and revive the navigational status of Kolkata port

This report deals with the social conflicts emerging out of the encroachments owing to the change in course of the Ganga upstream and downstream of the Farakka barrage. The barrage was built with the intention of diverting water into the Hugli river with a view to flush the sediment load into the deeper part of the estuary and revive the navigational status of Kolkata port. During the last three decades of its operation, the silt-management in the barrage was given scant or no attention. The sediment movement in the tidal estuary of Hugli is a function of a complex fluvial system that can hardly be governed by inducing 40000 cusec of water.

Furthermore, the erosion of the banks of the river continues unabated and has resulted in the problem of land reallocation leading to the border dispute between Jharkhand and West Bengal, and has created a class of neo-refugees. The land eroded from left bank of Ganga in Malda is more than 200 sqkm and that from Murshidabad is about 356 sqkm. In this densely populated area, the manmade intervention has exerted immense influence on the river system and interrupted its natural behavior. It is feared that the river may outflank the barrage in near future making the project redundant. While millions of rupees are wasted every year in bank protection, the programme of rehabilitating the erosion-victims has not been given heed.

Since the flow of river was intercepted at Farakka, the sedimentation on the riverbed has increased. Huge load of boulders utilized in anti-erosion works are dislodged every year and deposited on the riverbed. Moreover, the basic objective of the Farakka Barrage has been frustrated as the problem of siltation in the Hugli estuary remains unsolved and the Kolkata port is not yet accessible to the large sea-going vessels.

The engineering measures, involving huge capital investment, can partly or temporarily protect the non-displaced persons. But better preparedness and scientific resettlement strategies are required to improve the socio-economic status of the thousands of erosion-victims living a susceptible life on the river banks.

Download the report from the Independent Broadcasting Associates website here.

 

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