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River bank erosion and environmental neo-refugees: A case study of Murshidabad district in West Bengal, India

Author: 
Dr. Sanatan Ghosh
Subject Area: 
Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: 

The district is situated in a flood plain region of moribund delta of West Bengal. River bank erosion is a common environmental disaster in Murshidabad district like any other deltaic region of the World. The district is well drained by a number of river systems such as Padma, Bhagirathi, Jalangi and Bhairab. Murshidabad district is centrally located in West Bengal lying between 23˚43'30''N to 24˚50'20''N and 87˚49'17''E to 88˚46'E. The geology of the district is mainly Quaternary alluvium. The Bhagirathi River is almost divided the district into two equal physiographic divisions. The western part of Bhagirathi River is known as “Rarh” and the eastern part of Bhagirathi River is known as “Bagri”. The rivers in the district have been continuously changing its meandering-geometry actively since second half of the twenty century. But the dimension of river bank erosion has been increased after construction of Farakka Barrage. The recurrent bank failure and displacement of a large number of people make huge environmental neo-refugees in every year. As a result, the encroachment of fertile arable lands; destruction of standing crops, human settlements, roads and communication are the matter of deep anxiety for the riparian people as well as district administration. The aim of the present work is to study river bank erosion and its impact on socio-economic conditions of environmental neo-refugees. Data and information are both collected from primary and secondary sources. The major sources of primary data include observation and questionnaire survey in the selected environmental neo-refugees areas such as Toltoli (Muradpur Mouza), Tekpara (Hasanpur Mouza), Ganje Singeswari, Nirmal Char, New Bamnabad and other places. The secondary sources of information are satellite imagery, published reports and articles. The result shows that the displaced people are forced to accept their loss due to bank erosion. Most of the environmental neo-refugees live below poverty line and temporary houses, also lack of health, electricity and sanitation facilities. Most of the male people mainly non workers in these areas are forced to migrate to other states and countries for seeking the jobs. Females are mostly house wife and also engaged in agriculture and Bidi cottage industry with minimum wages. Most of the bank protection work is based on engineering, not consider the social dimension. Therefore socio-economic upliftments as well as holistic planning are urgently needed to tackle these problems.

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