The destruction caused by Aila cyclone on 25 May, 2009 in South 24-Parganas, West Bengal

(Photographs taken on 7-8 July, 2009)





In connection with my Initiation Grant project, I was in West Bengal from 15 June to 11 July, 2009 to conduct a study of mental health status and needs of the survivors of a developmental disaster, the Nandigram incidents (that began in January, 2007). While conducting my study at Nandigram, I also met some medical professionals who apprised me of the alarming situation in Aila cyclone-affected villages of the 24-Parganas districts. I visited Chandipur and Kumirmari villages of Gosaba block of South 24-Pargangas along with some relief-workers associated with Ms. Mahasweta Devi between 4 and 11 July. It was not just an opportunity for me to extend my understanding of disaster mental health but also one to listen to the needs of people struggling for survival.


The survivors in the villages have been facing scarcity of food, drinking water (sea-water ruining their freshwater ponds, and becoming a cause of death of several survivors who suffered from diarrhoea after having no choice but to drink the saline water), and means of earning livelihood (as they have traditionally been dependant on agriculture that has been ruined by the saline water from sea that had entered their farms; please see the photographs given below this write-up). Just as the survivors of Bihar flood, 2008 (where farms were found covered with sand or having 10-20 feet deep ditches after flood-water got dried up), a large-scale migration of male members of the affected families is going on as they have lost their traditional means of earning their livelihood, that is, agriculture. Before a long-term rehabilitation of survivors is planned, at least for one or two more months, there is a likelihood that the affected people would have to be dependent on relief materials.


Photograph 1: Damaged houses in Kumirmari village, Gosaba block,

South 24-Parganas. Farms filled with sea-water can be seen in the background.


Photograph 2: Damaged brick-road in Kumirmari village, Gosaba block,

South 24-Parganas. The damage to the brick-road is at several places in the village.


Photograph 3: Sea-water that has entered into Chandipur village, Gosaba block,

South 24-Parganas making the farms non-cultivable for some years to come.


Photograph 4: Longka (Chilli) crops completely destroyed by sea-water that

has entered into Chandipur village, Gosaba block, South 24-Parganas.

Crops in numerous such Aila-affected villages have been destroyed in this manner.