Villages along the Ganga river, in Samserganj block of West Bengal experienced erosion after several decades, with many families unprepared and suffering major losses.Some locals and experts attribute this fresh spate of erosion in August-September at Samserganj to the obstruction of the natural flow of the river Ganga linked to the construction of the Farakka Barrage.Experts monitoring the situation have proposed climate change mitigation and adaptation plans for the Ganga floodplain along with effective warning and rehabilitation measures. Riverbank erosion along the Ganga is becoming a frequent affair in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district. However, this year, the erosion also took place in villages that hadn’t seen such erosion in decades or possibly ever. In Samserganj block of Murshidabad district, the erosion that started in August this year washed away homes, temples, a school and agricultural land. For many residents of three villages of Samserganj block, along Ganga riverbank, Dhanghara (Nimtita gram panchayat), Dhusaripara (Nimtita gram panchayat), and Natun Shibpur (Chachanda gram panchayat) the erosion was a new occurrence. According to Pradip Chakraborty, Executive Engineer, Ganga Anti Erosion Division, Murshidabad, “The erosion happening on Dhanghara, Dhusaripara, and Natun Shibpur is fresh erosion started in August. Around 2.7 km along the Ganga has been eroding over the past fifty days. We have no data of previous erosion in the past fifty years in this area.” Shyamal Kumar Mondal, Sub-Division Officer, Jangipur lrrigation Department, Murshidabad also confirmed that “there is no record of erosion in this area in past 60 years.” Some locals and experts attribute the fresh spate of erosion at Samserganj to the obstruction of the natural flow of the river Ganga linked to the construction of the Farakka Barrage. This riverbank failure in Bengal districts such as Malda and Murshidabad, which started in the early 60s with the inception of the barrage project has been described as a “long-term natural disaster”. Riverbank erosion along the Ganga at Natun Shibpur village, Samserganj block, West Bengal, destroyed several houses, farmlands and trees. Photo by Tanmoy Bhaduri. Raisuddin Seikh lost his house and ten bighas of land in the recent erosion at Dhanghara village. “I saw the river water in my courtyard when we came out around midnight. We heard a strange sound when the house started sinking and it did not give us time to shift essential items.” Photo by Tanmoy Bhaduri. Anwara Bibi, a widow residing at Dhanghara village, looks at her house that was washed away on August 19 midnight. Photo by Tanmoy Bhaduri. According to the 2020-21 Murshidabad district disaster management plan, more than 65,000 households in villages of Samserganj block have been identified as vulnerable to flood, waterlogging and erosion. The erosion started at Dhanghara village on August 12 this year. Torab Ali, 75, who lives in Dhanghara told Mongabay-India, “The first wave of destruction came on August 12 and a border outpost of Border Security Force (BSF) eroded into the river. On August 19, a second wave of destruction started around midnight and 395 houses of Dhanghara washed away within hours.” Ali further explained that this area never faced such erosion in past decades. “I saw how my birthplace, Hiranandapur village was eroded 61 years ago in my childhood. But this time the situation is so tragic. The erosion started so suddenly that many villagers did not even get the time to save their essential items from their homes,” he said. In early September houses at Natun Shibpur eroded overnight and large tracts of agricultural land and mango-litchi orchards were also washed away. “Around 2-5 houses and agricultural lands eroded every alternate day. We have taken shelter in a local school and house of relatives. We received 24 kgs of rice and some essential items for now but we don’t know who will provide us food in the coming days and where we will go from here,” said Madhu Mondal, 64. Fresh erosion was reported at Dhusuripara village from September 23. Locals claimed that at least 20-40 bighas of land drowned at a time and multiple cracks on soil appeared across Nimtita area that can be eroded anytime. Samserganj block of Murshidabad is a flood-prone region. Villages along the Ganga river in Samserganj block experienced erosion after several decades. Photo by Tanmoy Bhaduri. Amirul Islam, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA from Samserganj, said, “Around 3000 people of 627 families (in Samserganj) have been displaced in past two months. We provided food items and tarpaulin among these homeless families. Apart from this around 1200 acres of land washed away in this region. I spoke to the chief minister of the state and she’d announce a rehabilitation package soon for affected families.” According to block development officer Joydeep Chackraborty: “Irrigation department officials made several inspection visits in affected villages and they have prepared a detailed project report on anti-erosion works in Ganga-Padma erosion and forwarded to higher authority.” Prabhat Sarkar, a local of Dhusaripara said, “We cannot understand why the erosion started again in new areas. Farakka Barrage has been creating problems for a long time. There is a continuous swing of the river to the left and thereby a huge chunk of land is eroded away every year. We heard a large part of the barrage is open due to renovation works and the sudden discharge of water might affect us.” Apart from this, a few years back a guard wall was constructed near Dhulian crematorium to save the river bank. “Now natural flow of the river blocked due to the guard wall and as result fresh erosion started in Nimtita,” he added.