Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cylone Aila Update / Sunderbans

Small gains in the support of victims of Cyclone Aila - Report from Asit Biswas,

Dear Friends,

1.With the initiative of the Sunderbans Affairs Department, repairing of embankment finally began today – especially in Gosaba, Basanti, Satjelia, Mollakhali and Kumirmari area. Our volunteers led by our coordinators Mr.Anil Mistry, Mr.Shambhu Sinha Roy, Mr.Arabinda Biswas, Mr.Subhash Mandal, Mrs.Archana Biswas, Ms.Moyna Poira, Ms.Nibedita Gayen, Mr.Subhashis Mistry, Mr.Chidam Mandal, Mr.Badal Mandal, Mr.Mahadeb Gayen, Mr.Dinabandhu Mandal, Mr.Debashish Mistry are providing supervisory support to speed up the repairing works in Bali. Ms. Madhu Reddy – a film maker who is in Sunderbans now and is trying to document the situation there accompanied our team who visited Dayapur, Pakhiralaya, Satjelia, Mollakhali and Kumirmari today to check the progress. Madhu reports that:

· Repairing of embankment could not be started at Lahiripur, Chargheri, Kankmari, Parashmani, Kalidaspur, Baidyapara area as the villages are still submerged and are inaccessible because of wide breaches in the dike. There lies nothing in between the water and people – not even a single tree. It is impossible to believe or imagine that there ever existed a dike that ran few kilometers before the Cyclone hit – she says!

· The villagers have taken shelter on the highland. They have lost everything and do not even have any utensils to cook food and store drinking water. There is shortage of man power and materials required for the repairing. Many interior villages have not received adequate relief support as yet as they are completely cut off. The fallen trees could not be removed from the village tracts making it impossible for the relief workers to reach these villages even by a motor rickshaw or bicycle.Our team is planning to return to these villages on Monday with appropriate relief materials.

· The only primary health centre at Mollakhali that caters to several villages is getting flooded with Diarrhea patients. There is shortage of medicines and saline. Our team has left 200 bottles of saline there today as an emergency support.

Government of West Bengal is seriously planning to construct concrete dikes for long-term solution to the breaching of clay embankments by tides and storms and is reported to have been in touch with Central Government as well as Government of Japan for financial assistance/ loan as the project requires huge fund.

2.Sunderbans Affairs Department is supplying free cloths and ration to the villagers who are engaged in the repairing of embankments.

3.Mr.D.P.Jana – a retired officer of Indian Administrative Service and former Member Secretary of Sunderbans Development Board carried a truckload of relief items such as cloths, rice, pulses, cooking oil, drinking water, and milk to Bali Island yesterday and handed over the consignment to our team there. Our volunteers have distributed the relief items today to some remote villages in Bali Island where relief support had not reached before. Today they visited few villages in Satjelia, Mollakhali and Kumirmari and distributed relief items there.

4.Mr.Gurudas Kamath – the State Minister for Telecommunications in the Central Government undertook a field visit to Sunderbans day before yesterday. He visited the affected villages of Gosaba and Basanti Islands and stopped for a while in Bali Island and met our teams and took stock of the present situation. He was particularly curious to know as to how the telecommunication and postal departments faired during and after the cyclone. He was accompanied by the officers of the state telecommunication department whose performance deserves special appreciation as the wireless phone system installed by the department was the only functional communication link between the delta and the mainland when the cyclone was at its peak.

5.Nearly 700 contaminated ponds in Bali Island have been totally dewatered as on date with the help of Sunderbans Development Board, local communities and our volunteers working round-the-clock. By Monday we hope to clean another 300 ponds making the number to 1000 and thus benefiting 6000 farmers provided we have a normal monsoon in the delta.

6.Mr. Patrick Francis and Ms.Sangeeta Ganeriwala – two Board Members from Samarpan Foundation visited our health camps in Bali Island yesterday. They carried a consignment of many useful medicines along and confirmed that they would adopt few damaged houses in the village and provide the finance for few new tube wells.

For Cyclone Aila 2009 Support Group
Asit Biswas, Calcutta, India.
13th June 2009.


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