Dhuliyan is a small town about 78 kms north-west of Baharamapur. River Ganga divides itself into two rivers after Nimtita near Dhuliyan —Padma (flowing eastwards to Bangla Desh) and (Bhagirathi) Hooghly turning southwards to Kolkata. Compared to Padma, Hooghly is a small stream at Dhuliyann. After flowing by the border of Murshidabad for 60 kms, Padma is joined by the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. Delta starting from Farakka and extending till the Bay of Bengal is the world’s largest delta. It is formed by the huge amount of silt (around 1667 million tonnes per year) brought by Ganga and Brahmaputra.
Farakka Barrage: Farakka is about 254 kms from Kolkata and the barrage here was commissioned in 1975. The main purpose of the barrage was to help irrigation activities, to re-establish inland water transport and to rejuvenate the Kolkata Port, made less efficient in the 1950-1960s by the silt accumulation. Increased supplies from Farakka into Bhagirathi-Hooghly were also supposed to reduce salinity and ensure sweet water supply to Kolkata. Barrage diverts up to 40,000 cu ft/sec of water into the Hooghly river at Kolkata during the dry season. Diversion to the Hooghly River is via a 41 km long feeder canal.
Ill- Conceived: Many Indian and Bangla experts strongly criticise Farakka Barrage as illconceived. Some points made out are given below.
a) Huge sedimentation in the barrage has increased flood intensity and bank failures (in upstream areas of Bihar and UP). It is estimated that 640 million tonnes of silt per year accumulates on the riverbed, totalling to more than 20000 million tonnes since 1975.
b) Silt build up has raised the river bed by 20 feet, clogged the dam’s gates and forced the river to change its course, thereby flooding many villages in Malda (upstream) and Murshidabad (downstream). Keskar Committee reported that in a stretch of 174 Kms along the Ganga (population of nearly 26 lakhs) 6.20 lakh people lost their homes in the last few decades. Mr. Kalyan Rudra, geography professor in Kolkata, explains that the dam forced Ganga to shift almost six miles eastward over the last 30 years. As Ganga moved towards Panchanandapur, an indigo factory, sugar mill, hospital, police station and a government building and other settlements were all swallowed by the river.
c) Bangladesh’s delta receives less sediment and inadequate water flow for navigation and irrigation during summer. This has curtailed delta growth and increased coastal erosion.
d) Increase in salinity in Bangladesh is supposed to be the reason for reduced cropproduction, fish-catch, power generation and reduced industrial output,
e) Sundarbans have also shown signs of deterioration through increased salinity, chlorine levels, and insufficient nutrients in the water.
f) Fisherman in UP and Bihar complain that the Barrage has hindered the natural migration of fish from the sea.
It looks strange that the riparian suffers the floods but recovers soon to enjoy the benefits of fertile soil brought by the floods. But, he dreads the bank erosion and shifting of the course by the river, which deprive him of his land and displace him from his old moorings. That leaves him the options of becoming a landless rural labourer, migrating out of the area to seek other means of livelihood or praying for the mercy of government for resettlement.
Rajmahal: (earlier name Agmahal) is in the northeast of Jharkhand state in the Rajmahal Hills, which extend for a distance of 192 kms. Ganga skirts round the hills to flow towards Bengal. The town is on the west bank of Ganga. Man Singh, on his return from the conquest of Orissa in 1592, named it Rajmahal. He was impressed by the strategic command of the place over Teliagarh Pass and the Ganga river and its central position between Bengal and Bihar. As the governor of Bengal (1580-1600) under Akbar, he chose this town as his capital (1595-96). Man Singh built a fort, his palace and also a Jama-i-Masjid here. Rajmahal flourished as it was a healthier place than Gaur. Soon after, Ganga receded nearly two miles and was no longer accessible to war-boats and could not be defended on land or water. In
1608-09 Islam Khan transferred the capital to Jahangirnagar (in Dhaka) to uppress the growing power of the Portuguese. However, Rajmahal was named as the capital by Shah Shuja (1639-1660). The prince built the famous palace Sang-i-dalan (Stone Palace). Mir Jhumla (1660-1663) transferred the capital again to Dhaka to check the Arakanese and the Portuguese pirates. The ruins of the old city are now covered with luxuriant jungle.
Moti Jharna and Sahibganj: Moti Jharna (67 kms from Farakka) is so called because the water droplets falling from the peak of the mountain resemble the white pearls. The place must be picturesque in the monsoons when the pearly water drops appear more beautiful amidst the lush greenery. It had caught the imagination of many artists and photographers. Sahibganj (84 kms from Farakka) is the district head quarters of the same name in Jharkhand. Manihari (across the river) and Peer Pahad hills are being bared by stone quarrying. People will soon be unable to have darshan of Budiya Mayi’s ashram and Palahari Baba in the hills.
Sewage: Total population of Dhuliyan, Farakka, Sahibganj and Rajmahal in 2001 was nearly 192,900 and the sewage was 21 MLD, equivalent to a discharge of 2100 tankers (of 10KL) sewage to the river every day.
Interference With Nature: A) Peer Pahad hills are virtually laid flat to the ground due to stone quarrying and transport at Sakrigalli. Mining mafia is virtually destroying the historical, cultural and environmental assets in Bihar. There appears to be no concern for conserving the hills, forests and the environment. The urge is born of the greed for immediate acquisition of prosperity, even at the cost of ecology or environment.
B) Secondly, Farakka Barrage stands as a tragic example of our direct interference with the river’s natural flow and its long term consequences. Jatin H Desai writes-“Man, will continue to exploit the nature to gain materialistic success. He will justify the decisions without deeper, long term effects they might have. Because, he has armed himself with a belief that materialistic growth is the only way to define success – at individual level, at level of society, and at the grander level of political strength, which is, in fact, the ultimate self-deception….. They fix a short-term problem, without our ability to recognize the future negative impact …….”
Photos: Mr Aaron MacFarlin — Ganga in Dhuliyan, Stone for transport in Sahibganj, Masjid in Rajmahal, Trucks on Ferry in Sahibganj, Dead Body at Sahibganj,