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Kishore Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2017-02-23

Banana cultivation on land reclaimed from the Brahmaputra hit by fresh erosion

About four decades back the river Brahmaputra had reduced about 300 farmers’ families of Bartari, Kandalpara and Bejartari in Assam’s Kamrup district to paupers by eroding away vast stretches of their cultivable land. The affected farm families, however, managed to overcome penury with cultivation of banana on sandy land which they reclaimed along the bank line. Due to gradual deposition of silt induced by a land spur constructed in the area to check further erosion the farmers reclaim land along the bank line for cultivation.

In 2015, fresh erosion hit the reclaimed cultivable land and is progressing unabated in absence of any effective anti-erosion measure. The river now threatens to erode away banana cultivation on 2000 bigha ( 7.5 bigha equals 1 hectare in Assam) of reclaimed land along the 7-km stretch of the riverbank. Erosion has already hit about 3-km stretch of bank line under banana cultivation. The villagers are now worried they will again be reduced to rags if their banana cultivation on the reclaimed is lost in erosion.

Initially, a small group of youth started growing Malbhog variety of banana in small plots and their commercial success encouraged others to follow. Soon, the area under banana spread to about 2000 bigha.

The farmers say that a -721-m long land spur No. 1 constructed in 1985-86 at Futuri, about 33km from Guwahati, after devastating erosion that continued till 1977 ceased to hit for several years, played the crucial role in reclaiming cultivable land in Bartari area. The process of formation of the char (sandbar) through deposition of silt induced by the land spur started in 1992. Assistant Executive Engineer, Water Resources Department Aktarudzzaman Azad says that about 6822 hectares including small channels in between the chars were reclaimed from the river. “A proposal for anti-erosion project in the area has already been submitted which is under consideration of the government, he adds.

“Erosion has resurfaced in 2015 and about 200 bigha of cultivated land has already been eroded away by the river since then. Unless adequate anti-erosion steps are undertaken the whole cultivated landmass will be lost. About 10,000 villagers will be reduced to rags if farmers are to lose the reclaimed land resource,” cautions banana grower Govinda Kalita (35), worried over the steady progression of erosion.

Sharing the experience of how the reclaimed land brought smiles to erosion-hit families, Kalita told nezine.com that the villagers were solely dependent on daily wage earning jobs for subsistence living till a group of youth started growing banana on reclaimed land and demonstrated its commercial viability. “We have overcome penury through hard work and without any financial aid which also motivated other farmers,” Bhabesh Kalita and Deepjyoti Kalita said echoing Govinda

The area being flood prone the farmers sustain crop damage every year during flood. They say recurrent flood is destroys about 20 per cent of standing crops resulting in financial loss estimated at Rs 1 core every year. “Government should come forward to successfully fight the menace before the situation slip out of hands,” they demanded.

Govinda says growing of malbhog variety is proved to be a profitable venture. Earnings from cultivation of this variety on a plot of one bigha can go up to Rs 35,000 including the input cost of Rs 12,000. “My three banana gardens spread over 22 bigha of land fetch me annual earnings of Rs 8.50 lakh from which I get a profit of about Rs 3.50 lakh,” Govinda adds. Farmers sell their produce in bunches which are transported to Guwahati. Also, about 20 local youths supply the banana grown in the area to Guwahati market.

“I go to Krishi Vigyan Kendra four times in a year as a faculty member to take practical class on banana farming. Even farmers across the state visit our plots to learn the know-how of banana growing,” says, whose hands-on knowledge has turned him a resource person on banana cultivation. Govinda also carries out regular soil test. “Soil is soul for us and therefore health of soil matters the most. So, I carry the soil samples to KVK, Kamrup to be anyalsed by scientists there and advise us accordingly, he adds.

Programme Coordinator of KVK, Kamrup Dhirendra Nath Kalita, says there are further scopes of improvement in farming activities in the area. At the initial stage of banana plantation, particularly during first year from plantation farmer can cultivate field crops like mustard to enhance their income. Besides, they can put up bio-fencing with lemon instead of traditional fencing around their plots. The senior scientist says that training has been imparted to convert the banana waste to wealth by producing vermicompost.

Kishore Talukdar

(Kishore Talukdar is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. His areas of interest include Development journalism and Environment journalism. He can be contacted at tdrkishore@gmail.com )

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