A Month After Amphan: Sunderbans, The Worst-Hit

While Kolkata was dealing with complaints of power cuts and no water supply, Sunderbans was fighting for survival. The UNESCO World Heritage site was the worst-hit by Amphan among North and South 24 parganas, East and West Medinipur and parts of Nadia.

In case you are not aware, Sunderbans is home to nearly 5 million people and has the
world's largest single block of mangrove forests. The tourists' spot is also known for the presence of Royal Bengal Tigers.

The afternoon of May 20 witnessed super cyclone Amphan ravaging through parts of Bengal, leaving a trail of destruction. The deadly storm that claimed 80 lives, threw life out of gear.

It's been over a month now. Following innumerable social media posts flooding our timelines, shares and re-shares, criticisms and accusations, we eventually came out of it. The initial shock has faded away and life for many of us is back on track.

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As we continue to be upset with the WiFi speed at our high-rises, the natives of Sunderbans are trying hard to rebuild their only means of shelter. Amphan came at a time of crisis - a time when we are already hell bent in fighting against the global coronavirus pandemic. The situation stands grave.

Being the worst-hit, Sunderbans has perhaps been pulled back by a decade. From houses to agricultural fields, everything is under water; So much so that people do not have access to the bare essentials like drinking water. Sea water has taken over the ponds, flooded fields and barged into houses. Some of them are putting up in temporary shelters, others have no choice but to reside inside the remains of their houses.

Several NGOs have been conducting relief work to restore normalcy in cyclone-hit Sunderbans. Locals have also joined hands in the relief distribution process.

Member of the Kolkata unit of a pan-India NGO, that carried out extensive relief work in parts of Sunderbans, said, "Our target was to serve at least 1,000 families during our first drive. We distributed rice, pulses, soya bean chunks and packets of biscuits among the needy."

Talking about their future drive plans, he said, "We have two mega drives scheduled in July. We aim to serve at least 2,000 families in each."

Social workers have constantly been volunteering in the affected areas, individuals and groups have also come forward and shouldered relief work. Some have even set up base camps to ensure smooth distribution of relief materials. Many are also laying a helping hand to pump out salt waters from ponds and other water bodies.

"We had a few places in mind. We travelled for almost 70 kms from South Kolkata to reach Hasnabad ferry ghat. From there, we rented a boat, loaded relief materials and started off the one-and-half hours journey to reach our destination," said a Kolkata-based musician, who recently visited Sunderbans to give away relief materials.

So far, he and his mates carried out three relief drives. Speaking of people's distress, he said, "As we sailed through the storm-affected areas and entered interior lands, there were times when we could only see roofs of a few huts while the rest were completely submerged in water." He added, "The relief work is, however, not enough. I hope more people come forward to help us see this through."

While you and I sit back to enjoy a web series, have dinner and go to bed with no or little concerns, many in Sunderbans are still struggling for a square meal. They are devoid of a place where they can spend the night peacefully, without fear.