Is Farakka Barrage Responsible for Arsenic Poisoning?

Akbar| Bengal| Rivers| Agriculture| Barrages| Embankments| Malda District| Farakka Barrage| Flood Prone|

This post is made on the basis of discussions with Shri Tapas Das of Nadi Bachao Jibon Bachao Andolan, West Bengal.

It is said that at the time of Akbar when Abul Fazal had visited Bengal he found water everywhere. The entire area was prospering with rivers, rain and agriculture. But today the situation has changed dramatically. We have spent Rs 1,34,000 crores in building barrages and embankments but the result is that today about one-third of the district of Malda which extends both upstream and downstream of the Farakka Barrage has become flood prone and erosion prone.

Farakka Barrage has led to erosion in Malda District.
Erosion in Malda District due to the Farakka Barrage

Mihir Shah| Irrigation| Underground Water| Flood| Soil Erosion| Poisonous Arsenic| Recharging Groundwater|

According to report of Mihir Shah, about 86% irrigation is still done by underground water. Huge amount of water is being taken out of the ground which has led to the poisonous arsenic rising to the surface.

Groundwater irrigation has led to arsenic poisoning.

If you have arsenic present in the lower part of the earth but if you keep on putting fresh sweet water into the earth, then the arsenic stays at the bottom and fresh water stays at top and you can continue to use it.

Recharge of groundwater will push arsenic down and prevent poisoning. 

Fresh Water| Canal| Canal Based Irrigation| Depending on Groundwater| Farakka Location| Ganga| Padama River| Jhalangi River| Hoogly River|

But since we have used up the fresh water on the upper part of the earth therefore the arsenic has come up. Previously when Farakka was not there and arsenic problem was also not there. The Ganga used to flow through Padma to Bangladesh. There were a large number of distributaries emerging from Padma such as the Jhalangi which were bringing water from Padma to the Hoogly River. These rivers were recharging the groundwater and keeping the arsenic at the bottom.

We must take Ganga water to Hooghly through the Jalangi.

British Rule| Hoogly River| Small River| Feeder Canal| Farakka Barrage| Course of Jhalangi| Erosion| Rivers for Irrigation| Arsenic Poison| Extracting Groundwater|

During the British time large ships try to ply through Hooghly and Jhalangi into the Ganga. Jhalangi was not a small river. By making Farakka and taking the water to Hoogly through the Feeder Canal, we have dried up the Jalangi and other rivers. The Farakka has led to erosion and drying of Jalangi has led to arsenic problem. Therefore, instead of trying to revive Hooghly through the feeder canal, we should think about using the original course of Jhalangi to take the water of Padma into Hoogly.

That will save us from the problem of erosion we have been facing everywhere.

Water for Every Field| Reviving Rivers| Traditional Irrigation Methods| Rising Level of Arsenic| Less use of Groundwater|

In 2015, the slogan was given that there will be water for every field but no progress has been made.

Groundwater irrigation without recharge is leading to arsenic poisoning.

On the other hand groundwater abstraction has increased. This is leading to arsenic poisoning.

Therefore, we should think of reviving our rivers and reviving the traditional methods of irrigation and should stop spending our energies in trying to develop river based irrigation.