NATURAL DISASTER: River flows, leaving land on banks infertile

NATURAL DISASTER: River flows, leaving land on banks infertile – fertilizers, pollution & denudation upstream no mystery, water quality checked ?!!

The Saltia river at Matalhat in Cooch Behar - pollution, use of artificial fertilizers and denudation upstream no mystery ?!! (Main Uddin Chisti)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY MAIN UDDIN CHISTI

Cooch Behar, Aug. 6: The Saltia flowing through this district continues to be a puzzle with the river sucking moisture out of farmlands, rendering them infertile for cultivation.

“You have heard of daylight robbery and train dacoities. But the Saltia loots water and moisture. For as long as I remember the river has been sucking dry the moisture from the land around it. Even during the rains, water that accumulates on the surface of the fields disappears within minutes and is sucked into the river,” said Cooch Behar MLA Akshay Thakur.

The MLA said he had raised the matter many times in the Assembly. “This is a unique phenomenon not only in our state but is probably the only riverine in the whole of India that behaves in this way. But no one seems to be interested in ordering a probe and employing geologists or geophysicists to find out why the river behaves in this way. No one can grow any crop along the river,” said Thakur.

The Union government had sent experts to examine the soil along the river in 2006. “I had raised the issue in Lok Sabha, and the Centre sent a team of experts from the agriculture ministry in October 2006. They collected soil samples on October 1 and 2 and told us that further investigations were needed. But they never came back,” said former MP Hiten Barman.

The Saltia flows for 25km through Cooch Behar and Dinhata subdivisions and sucks dry moisture from land falling within 5km of its banks, affecting the farming by over two lakh families. The river is a tributary of the Torsa and meets the Singimari river in Dinhata.

A farmer of the area, Rahimullah Ali, said the irrigation department had built an earthen embankment along a portion of the river in 2001, but it was washed away during subsequent monsoons.

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