Earlier this week, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had lashed out at government officials for the poor work done after cyclone Amphan last year. She said despite spending crores of rupees on rebuilding infrastructure over the last year, several structures including dams, embankments, and sea walls collapsed during the cyclonic storm Yaas last month.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) Chief also directed irrigation and forest departments to make advance preparations for possible high tides on June 11 and June 26.
However, it seems the warning fell on deaf ears. Locals in Malda district’s Bhutni island, which is surrounded by the Ganga river, have alleged the government officials are doing substandard work to prevent soil erosion near the banks. The residents fear the temporary solution of throwing sandbags to prevent soil erosion - the biggest problem in the island - will simply lead to wastage of government resources.
Bhutni comes under the Manikchak block where residents, over the last few decades, have lost acres and acres of farmland due to land erosion. The agricultural fields have been subsumed by the Ganga river due to soil erosion.
Last year, Hiranandapur village in Bhutni was hit by a devastating soil erosion, leaving hundreds of people landless. The government has allocated Rs 6.5 crore this year to prevent soil erosion in the Sukshena ghat of Bhutni, and the work has also started.
However, locals are complaining that throwing sandbags near the ghat to temporarily prevent soil erosion will not last when the river swells during monsoon. Locals are also not happy with what they say is “substandard work" being undertaken by the contractor.
Even the local district council of Hiranandapur demanded the administration to investigate the allegations. However, the representative of the acting contractor dismissed the accusations, and said they are doing the work as per government guidelines.
Irrigation Minister Saumen Kumar Mahapatra said the allegations must be probed, but added that work of preventing soil erosion has been impacted due to the Covid-19 situation, and a durable solution before monsoon is not possible. However, if the substandard quality of work is being done, then action should be taken, the minister further said.