Satyagrah by the river calls for action against erosion

Satyagrah by the river (Image source: Umesh K Ray)
Satyagrah by the river (Image source: Umesh K Ray)

Since last week, people of Birjain village have been protesting against erosion by the river bank. They are demanding that the government should put in efforts to prevent river erosion and save their houses, otherwise they will continue with their Satyagrah and perform Jal Samadhi (suicide by drowning). Sattore, a flood-prone Panchayat has about 3000 houses. According to the locals, erosion was not present in the panchayat till 2019, when it was first reported. The problem intensified this year.

"So far, 35 houses have been submerged by the river and if the government does not take immediate and concerted action to stop erosion, the entire village will get engulfed into the river," said Inglesh Kumar, a resident of Birjain who has participated in the Satyagraha. 

Saharsa is mainly flooded by the Kosi river, which has been changing its course over the years and following numerous paths. The river that flows through Birjain and causes widespread erosion is a distributary of Kosi.

“Earlier no river flowed through our village. It was only 10 years ago that suddenly a branch of Kosi started flowing from this side. There was no erosion initially, but this time the water flow is turbulent which is causing severe erosion," said Inglesh Kumar.

Erosion victims take refuge at the embankment

The erosion has completely ruined 35 houses. "The erosion victims have not received any government help, except for tarpaulin. They are somehow living on the embankment," said Prabha Devi, the Mukhiya (village council head).

She further informed that at about 100 feet distance from the village, excessive erosion is taking place and if the government does not take prompt action, then the whole village will get submerged in the river water this year. 

“The house got engulfed into the river and it was so sudden that we could not save anything in the house except for our life. We are taking care of our family somehow and have not received any help from the government," said an elderly man living on the embankment.

Concretisation of the riverbank on the cards

In this regard, the local administration informed that soon steps will be taken to prevent erosion in the region. A block-level official said, "Parco piling, using ballast sand and cement, will be taken up along the river bank as this is the most effective way to prevent erosion." He further informed that the plan has been approved and work will start on a war footing soon.

83.62 lakh people flood-affected

With the onset of monsoon in mid-June, floods have been creating havoc in Bihar and there has been no respite from it. Till August 30, 83.62 lakh population across 16 districts in the state have been affected by floods. According to the data received from the Disaster Management Department, so far 27 people lost their lives due to floods. However, at present, the water level of the rivers is below the danger mark, due to which the floodwater is not inundating new areas. An official associated with the Disaster Management Department said, "For the last one week, Bihar has not experienced heavy rainfall due to which rivers are flowing below the danger mark. It is a matter of great relief and we are hopeful that the flood situation will be stable now.”

You can read the article in Hindi here. Authored by Umesh Kumar Ray; Translation to English by Swati Bansal