Orissa villagers fear
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Orissa villagers fear losing homes to soil erosion
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Orissa villagers fear losing homes to soil erosion

Several families in a small hamlet along the Bay of Bengal coast in Orissa are living in constant fear of their homes being wiped out soon due to massive soil erosion.

By Sarada Lahangir

Satabhaya (Orissa), May 4 : Several families in a small hamlet along the Bay of Bengal coast in Orissa are living in constant fear of their homes being wiped out soon due to massive soil erosion.

The fear has its basis in official findings that suggest that Satabhaya in Orissa's Kendrapara District has been reduced to 175 square kilometers from 320 sq.km area due to soil erosion.

Hundreds of houses and acres of arable land have already been lost to sea in the village.

"Every year five to ten houses are lost to sea in our village. The salty seawater is also ruining the soil in the village, still we are living here because we don't have funds to relocate ouselves. We are surviving at God's mercy, none of us can say how long will it last," said Dibakar Rout, a villager.

Around 3,000 people including women, children and the elderly, want the Orissa government's support to help relocate to a safe place.

Besides posing a threat to human lives, the salinity has ruined farmland, reducing chances of cultivation.

The State authorities, however, claim that the rehabilitation process is on.

"At least 611 families in two villages in Satabhaya and Kanpura have to be shifted to Magargandha because the sea is swiftly eroding now. We have to settle them at Magargandha, but there is some forest problem which is under process with the administration," said Kashinath Sahoo, Kendrapara District's District Magistrate. .

Villagers blame official apathy for their present plight.

"We have listened to government's 'plans' for our relocation for many years now. Nobody is serious about our apathy despite the danger to our lives. Many people have started deserting the place," said Haladar Behera, a villager.

Satabhaya is one of the largest deltas in Orissa and home to rich and diverse flora and fauna.

In general, background erosion removes soil at roughly the same rate as soil is formed. But 'accelerated' soil erosion - loss of soil at a much faster rate than it is formed - is a far more recent problem.

It is the result of mankind's unwise actions, such as overgrazing or unsuitable cultivation practices. These leave the land unprotected and vulnerable. Also, during times of erosive rainfall or windstorms, the soil may be detached, transported, and (possibly travelling a long distance) deposited.

Accelerated soil erosion by water or wind might affect both agricultural areas and the natural environment, and is one of the most widespread of today's environmental problems.


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