Mamata writes to PM over Ganga erosion

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Considering the river erosion along the river Ganga-Padma in Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia districts in West Bengal, Chief minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking restoration of extended jurisdiction of Farakka Barrage Project Authority (FBPA) to 120 km so that the Centre can take up urgent bank protection schemes in the entire stretch in consultation with the state government as promised.

Highlighting that in the last two decades, the perpetual river erosion, along the river Ganga-Padma in Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia districts in West Bengal resulted in severe loss of public utilities, private properties and agricultural lands, the chief minister said: “There has been adverse impact on Ganga-Padma erosion in context of the Indo-Bangladesh Ganga Treaty of 1996, both downstream and upstream of Farakka, in the districts of Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia”.

“The severity of the problem of erosion along this river system in West Bengal can be appreciated from the fact that almost 2,800 hectare of fertile land has been engulfed by the river and there have been damage to the public and private properties to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore during last 15 years,” the chief minister said.

“Such erosion along the river bank has largely been caused by the siltation in the river bed and frequent shifting of river course consequent upon the construction of Farakka Barrage. In view of this, the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources, in the year 2005, extended the work jurisdiction of the Farakka Barrage Project Authority (FBPA) from 40 KM. upstream of Barrage to further 80 K.M. downstream for the purpose of undertaking anti-erosion and river bank protection works in the entire stretch,” she wrote.

“Very surprisingly, the Union Ministry of Water Resources, by their letter dated July 11, 2017, unilaterally withdrew their earlier decision of 2005 and restored the original jurisdiction of the FBPA from 11.5 K.M. upstream to 5.9 K.M. downstream of Farakka Barrage. In the wake of this unilateral decision, I had requested you vide my letter dated August 10, 2017 to restore the extended jurisdiction of 120 K.M. by rescinding the aforesaid decision. But there has so far been no further response in this regard,” the chief minister added.

“As FBPA did not take up any substantial work, the state government had to take up urgent bank protection works at 31 identified vulnerable locations during last four years at a total cost of Rs 168.47 crore as a part of its commitment to protect thousands of flood victims in Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia districts. Again, due to the monsoon of 2021, further anti-erosion works along the river Ganga-Padma for a length of 9.9 K.M. has recently been taken up at a cost of Rs 80.67 crore,” the chief minister wrote.

“However, this is not going to suffice. The actual requirement of funds at the ground is much more. As per the latest assessment, 37 locations along the river Ganga-Padma, for a length of 28.80 K.M. are vulnerable and require immediate attention. The concomitant expenditure for river bank protection would be to the tune of Rs.571 crore,” she said.

However, in spite of several persuasions from the state government, FBPA has not addressed the problem of river erosion adequately in the extended jurisdiction of 120 K.M. This has further aggravated the land loss due to river erosion over 400 square kilometer of 15 blocks of Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia districts in West Bengal, she wrote.

“I would, therefore, request you to kindly reconsider the decision of withdrawal of the extended jurisdiction of FBPA, so as to fulfil the earlier commitment of the Central Government and arrange for taking up urgent bank protection schemes in the entire stretch of the extended jurisdiction by the FBPA in consultation with the State Government,” she said.It is becoming increasingly difficult for the state government to arrange the funds required for the new protection works. The matter was raised during the visit of the delegation of the Council of Ministers from the state to the Union Minister of Jal Shakti on August 31, 2021. Again, no response has been received from the Central Government, she added.

“I would also take this opportunity to inform that apart from erosion by the river Ganga-Padma, the perpetual flood and erosion along the trans-boundary rivers like Mahananda, Fulhar, Tangon, Atrayee and Punarbhava have been a pressing concern for 21 blocks of three districts namely Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda. Consequent to the major flood in 2017 affecting 4978 square kilometres of area with an assessed damage value of Rs 2,570 crore, the state government has formulated a comprehensive Flood Management Scheme and sent the same to Ganga Flood Control Commission (GFCC) in May 2021 for appraisal,” the chief minister added.

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