Last year, MWSN had reported how migrant workers from flood affected Sudarbans in West Bengal returned during the lockdown exodus to the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan in their homes. #EnvironmentDay2021

Once again, Cyclone Yaas has caused devastation in these areas. Yearly cyclones have increased soil salinity, throwing peasants off agriculture and forcing young people to become migrants permanently. Meanwhile, dilutions in ecological laws related to soil and mangrove conservation as well as Environment Impact Assessment of big 'development' projects have aggravates the situation. Apart from ration distribution in surveyed areas, a permanent community kitchen has been started in Raidighi with the participation of working people, which is serving 300 families daily. We appeal for your contributions towards strengthening relief efforts. We appeal to you for contributions that will go towards strengthening relief efforts. A detailed report of the situation we've seen is below.

The volunteers have reached in different areas of Sunderbans (North and South 24 PGS district) where villages have been inundated as dykes were collapsed during the cyclone. Relief efforts have been carried out in districts of East Midnapore and Howrah. On 26th of May, due to heavy water pressure, dykes collapsed in areas like Rupamari, Kumirmari of Hingalganj block of Sunderbans in North 24 PGS district. Almost 300 affected families got relief from the first team of Yaas Relief Network within 72 hours of the cyclone.

Three more teams of student volunteers went to different areas of South 24 PGS district. One team went to Kaikhali, another went to Deulbari-Debipur-Gurguria-Haldergheri and the third team went to Raidighi. All the villages were flooded with salt-water and were difficult to reach. Peasants and workers from the village were repairing the dykes on their own.

Another team went to Khejuri and Tamluk constitutencies of East Midnapore. This cyclone has affected coastal areas of Midnapore district. The volunteers reached two villages, where dykes collapsed and water level came up to 5 metres. One villager said that this is the first time dyke is collapsing since 1945. The situation is similar in more nearby 5-6 villages. As salty water has entered into village and mixed with local water bodies, fishes have dies and there is no water to bathe and even there is no proper availability of drinking water in these villages. Several organisations have started community kitchens however, that is far from adequate.

Dykes on Haldi River, Rasoolpur River have collapsed. Hijli is 12 kilometres away from Khejuri, the condition is not very different there as well. Apart from initiatives from various organisation, no organisation from government or local administration could be witnessed. There are tussles between TMC and BJP in these areas. As BJP has won the state assembly constituencies from here, the TMC isn't doing much and the BJP representatives are nowhere to be seen.

In the second round, two teams went to different areas of South and North 24 PGS districts. In Petkulchand village of Kultali block 1000 families were waterlogged. Almost 400 families were distributed dry ration and packaged food in this area. In Mathurapur-2 block, 150 families were distributed food packets. In Bhubaneswari panchayat area of Kultali, 400 families were distributed food packets, soaps, sanitary napkins, tarpaulins and sanitizers.

In Sandeshkhali-2 block, dykes have collapsed in Atapur village. The condition is very grim. Many tubewells are still under water. One relief team went there today with jars of drinking water and dry ration. Local residents have started a community kitchen in this area. The network is trying their best to support this initiative.

In the fourth round, four teams went to different blocks of South 24 PGS district.Around 350 families were distributed relief kits In Kalinagar area of Sandeshkhali block. Ghum Nei Patrika, Juba Bharat and Prayas Cultural Organisation took the initiative, who are associated with Yaas Relief Network.

In Raidighi area one community kitchen has started from where 300 people can eat daily. People who have siffered due to collapsed dyke will be distributed food from here. This community kitchen is being conducted by students associated with Migrant Workers Solidarity Network, Basti Sranjibi Adhikar Rakkha Committee and local villagers.

175 families were distributed relief packets in Charer Bheri area. In the same island, 250 villagers received 250 packets of food in another village called Ishwaripur situated in another corner of the same island. The village is situated at the bank of Hatania and Duania rivers. The West Bengal Job Card Holders’ Union, who are also a part of the Yaas Relief Network, facilitated the relief distribution process. The Network could arrange for Medical camps with the help of Shramajibi Swasthya Udyog. 177 villagers were treated in one day at the camp. A team of artists from Kalyani, “Pathasena”, distributed relief packets, ORS, bleaching powder, sanitary napkin in the village of Shyampukur at Kultali block. They also gave basic dry ration to a locally organised community kitchen. Another organisation, Prachesta, associated with the Network, had reached Patharpratima where almost 150 families were distributed relief items.

It is needless to say that these efforts are far from sufficient. So far, the government has not taken up the duty to distribute relief, to organise medical camps and reconstruction of dykes at a massive scale which is immediately required to save these villages. Local level corruptions and apathetic administrative attitudes have resulted in construction of poor dykes. Mangroves, which can withstand such heavy cyclones are also being destroyed and being replaced either with fancy tourism projects or other business projects such as Bheris (Big artificial water bodies to cultivate fish).

Frequency of cyclones have been increasing lately at an unprecedented rate. With increasing number of cyclones, Sunderban and its people’s lives are at stake. Due to contamination of salty water every year during cyclone, fertility of soil is getting reduced, sweet-water bodies are getting destroyed, and as a result, people of Sunderbans are migrating to other parts of the country to sustain their families. Increasing global warming, ecological imbalance, is destabilising the metabolic rift further. Capitalism, with its relentless search for profit, is keen to consume and destroy whatever natural resources are left with us. This unending search for profit is resulting in worsening air pollution levels, scarcity of drinking water, ecological imbalance, reduced fertility of soil and an overall unhealthy atmosphere to live in. Despite recognition of these problems we see our government coming up legal amendments to existing restrictions of environmental laws. These amendments such as EIA 2020 aims to abolish whatever restrictions were in place to restrict unending destruction of natural resources to facilitate profiteering for the Desi capitalists and capitalists abroad. All being done in the name of “growth” where the peasants, workers, agricultural workers, casual workers from villages and cities face the worst consequences.