The tendency of rivers to change their course damage embankments, which lead to heavy inundation in the adjacent villages.
State Irrigation Minister Rajib Banerjee said that the survey work for the project has been initiated. The work on a river in Siliguri has already commenced as it had to be done on an immediate basis. The task for a permanent solution in other places like in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar will start after the monsoon.
“Initially, three points in rivers including Balasand and Teesta have been identified where the task will be carried out. At the same time, officials of the irrigation department have been asked to visit each and every vulnerable area in north Bengal to identify where similar tasks need to be undertaken so that people residing in villages adjacent to the rivers do not have to suffer in the monsoon anymore,” Banerjee said.
The minister himself went to north Bengal to take stock of the situation in districts that were facing heavy inundation following record rainfall this year after a span of nearly 20 years. The project has been undertaken following his visit to the districts including Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri.
According to an official of the state irrigation department, there are around 40 rivers in north Bengal and accumulation of pebbles, sand and boulders on the river bed has gone up due to ecological imbalance in the hills. Thus, it is natural that the rivers try to change their course with the increase in deposition on its river bed. As a result, either the river water overflows the embankments or, in some cases, even damages the embankments causing heavy loss to both residents of the area as well as the state government. The state government spends crores of rupess every year in constructing embankments and in the past five years the state irrigation department has constructed and repaired a record length of embankment.
Explaining the process undertaken to let rivers flow their original course instead of getting deviated to a new one, the irrigation department official said that ‘bed bars’ and ‘spars’, which look like concrete slabs of different sizes and shapes, will be placed on both sides of rivers using a modern technology. With the completion of the task, the rivers will flow their own course.
There is also a possibility of pebbles and sand getting carried away automatically instead of settling down at the bottom, minimising the navigability of the rivers. Thus, rivers can easily flow in their own course instead of damaging embankments.
“In north Bengal, there are embankments of around 2000 km in total. But the task would be undertaken following a proper survey at the spots where the rivers threaten to overflow and damage embankments, or better to say, try to change its course”, the official said, adding that it would cost around Rs 2 crore for laying the ‘bed bars’ and ‘spars’ on river banks of around one km. The cost would escalate to Rs 4 to Rs 5 crore if embankments also need to be constructed.
It may be mentioned that lakhs of people reside in the villages that are situated on the banks of the rivers. Hence, in the monsoon, most of the villages get inundated.
This year, the state government has so far provided relief materials to around 1.20 lakh people, who were affected due to heavy inundation in 20 blocks and areas under three municipalities in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, and Alipurduar, and plains in Darjeeling district. Around 23,000 people had to take shelters in relief camps. The official claimed that with the completion of the project, the residents of the areas will not need to worry anymore.