The beach within 500-metre of the Kapil Muni temple, the centre of the Gangasagar Mela, has been facing steady erosion, prompting the West Bengal government to take measures to prevent deterioration of the shoreline, an official said on Saturday.
Some “temporary arrangements” have already been made in view of the nine-day Mela which attracts lakhs of pilgrims starting on Sunday, while long-term measures will be taken up after the congregation is over.The official said that erosion in this part is natural and it happens due to the reduction of the tidal prism (the volume of water in an estuary between mean high tide and mean low tide), and associated chain effects, but Cyclone Yaas in May 2021 had aggravated the situation there. "The beach near the Kapil Muni ashram had vanished due to erosion. It's around 450 metres away from the temple. Three roads near the temple are also vulnerable. But there is no need to worry. We have taken up a pilot project and restored the beach keeping in mind the Makar Sankranti congregation,” he told PTI.
Mahanta Sanjay Das, the head priest of Kapil Muni temple in Sagar Island, said the West Bengal government is working on the problem. “Water is gradually approaching the ashram. The Centre's cooperation is also needed,” he said. Apart from the Mela area, erosion has been witnessed in Bankimnagar, Sumatinagar and Shibpur areas of the Island and the administration has taken steps to arrest it. "We have used trap bags on the beach near the Kapil Muni Ashram. We have covered at least 475 metres of the area there. If this is successful, we have plans to use this method to arrest erosion there," the official said.
Trap bags, better than conventional sandbags, are used to prevent flood and erosion. "The eroded portion of the beach has been first filled up with earth and then with sand-filled geotextile bags. The trap bags have been placed afterwards to prevent erosion and make the restoration strong enough to fight high tide," he added.
An irrigation department official said these are temporary measures, and once the Mela is over, the administration is going to take up placing tetrapods in those places where erosion is "high" to stop further deterioration of the beach. A tetrapod is a form of wave-dissipating concrete block used to prevent erosion. "At the moment we are unable to use tetrapods keeping in mind the safety and security of the pilgrims since these are concrete-built,” the irrigation department official said.
These tetrapods have been successfully used in Frazerganj and Digha to arrest shoreline erosion, he added. Lakhs of Hindu pilgrims gather in Sagar Island from different parts of the country and outside to take a holy dip at the confluence of the sacred Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’.