Till five years back, Ananta Charana Rout of Jaduchandrapur village in Rajnagar block had a roof over his head and two acres of land which helped him eke out a living. At present, he and his family reside in a shanty in Rajkanika deprived of even basic necessities.
Their house and land were all devoured by river Brahmani, one of the five main rivers of the district. In search of work, Rout had to shift to Rajkanika with his family. He now works as a daily wager to feed his family.
Babaji Parida (56) of Lokanathprasad village lost his one acre of agricultural land and house within three years. “I shifted house twice in five years as the river is fast moving towards the village,” he said.
Over 240 families of riverside villages of Mangalapur, Jeula, Uasadiha, Beduakolha, Baragaon, Dakhinabheda, Jaducnadrapur, Jhadakata, Dholamara, Kusunapur, Loaknathprasad, Mangalpur, Jeula, Gopinathpur, Uasadiha and Nuagaon face the same threat. For many years, erosion of river banks in the district during monsoon has threatened several thickly populated human settlements.
Sources said around 50 families are rendered homeless annually due to the river erosion resulting in massive displacement in the district. The authorities are well aware of the problem.
River erosion is nothing new in these villages but what worries the inhabitants most is its frequency and intensity.
Local and regional environmental factors are exacerbating erosion. Climate change, deforestation, silting of riverbeds coupled with absence of appropriate river management and a growing population are all having an impact.
“With the increasing population, more people shift towards the river banks making them vulnerable to erosion and flood damage,” said Jagabandhu Nayak, the former chairman of Rajnagar block. Till date, a large amount of fund allocated for fortification of river banks has been misused, Nayak alleged. Villagers said though they have urged the district administration to stone-pack the riverside areas in order to protect villages from onslaught of river for several time, no concrete measure has been taken yet. They said if erosion continues at this rate, more than 5,000 families residing in 10-km radius will become homeless within a few years.
Jugal Kishore Tripathy, Executive Engineer of Embankment Division of Aul, said the department has decided to spend `33 crore for stone-packing and a proposal in this regard has been sent to Planning and Coordination Department for approval. “Nabard will fund the project,” he added.