New Delhi, May 21 : Canning, the last Indian Railway station on the banks of River Matla and gateway to the World’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans, has an incredibly blank and deserted look.
Shocked and devastated by nature’s fury on Wednesday, the 158-year old hub for millions of commuters is lying in utter stupor, just like a haunted place. The look is the same, if not worse, in 104 islands dotted in the Sundarbans in Bengal Delta. Crisscrossed by mighty rivers in the confluence of Bay of Bengal, this mangrove haven, which is the finest eco-balance of India witnessed one of the harshest cyclones in over three centuries.
“The people here, who would travel to Kolkata and its suburbs everyday to earn a living, had already been struggling very hard to stay locked down in their homes for the past two months. And now they are homeless,” says Asit Kaptan, a resident of Gosaba. Many houses have been razed to the ground and roofs, mostly of tin or asbestos, have flown like leaves in the air, due to the shearing wind that lashed the region at 130-140 kms per hour.
Although about half a million people were evacuated before the storm into safe shelters, that looks to have been inadequate in the islands inhabited by over five million people.
The large scale devastation has stifled the rescue mission and the number of casualties are yet to be ascertained. However, the locals say the death toll will be very high. “We have lost our homes, we have lost our living,” sobs Savita Das, a widow who was frantically looking for her two goats, which were missing from last evening.
The salty environs and ever-increasing sea level have already stressed the agriculture in the region which is of largely monocrop nature. Merely nine sacks of rice is produced in one bigha of land, which is much lower in comparison to any fertile land.
But that too, has been mostly destroyed because of the cyclone resulting in an insurmountable crisis for the farmers who were waiting for the harvest of paddy. “We tried to save our crops as much as possible within the short notice that we received and stored them in our houses. But due to this destruction, we could neither save them inside the houses, nor in the fields,” said another villager.
Fishing and honey collections form a significant part of living for many islanders in this vast biodiversity reservoir in the Bay known for famed Royal Bengal Tiger. The lockdown had already impacted the trade very adversely because of the broken supply chain.
Now after this cyclone, which has wreaked havoc on the entire flora and fauna, life appears to be all the more difficult. The dearth of living, not surprisingly has forced many people earlier to migrate to other parts of the country. One in every five households in this region has at least one family member who has migrated, according to a scientist at Jadavpur University’s School of Oceanographic Studies. But, when the country is grappling with one of the worst humanitarian crisis, this cyclone has served a double blow. The super cyclone in Sundarbans is set to spark an unbridled explosion of fresh migration. The sudden wind is set to change the sail of life. (UNI)