If the state government fails to demolish unauthorised structures and stop felling of trees which are urgently needed to save the Sunderbans, then army could be deployed to do the job instead, a two-judge bench of the National Green Tribunal’s eastern zone bench in Kolkata observed on Wednesday.
“The bench of Justice Pratap Ray and Prof PC Mishra came down heavily on the state government claiming that little has been done to protect the Sunderbans. The bench also observed if the state fails to take any steps to demolish the unauthorised structures, stop feeling of trees or fail to control the brick kilns and shrimp farms which are creating pollution then the army would be deployed to save the delta,” said environmental activist Subhash Dutta who has been appointed amicus curie in this case.
It was Dutta who brought to the notice of the court in late 2014 how instead of conserving this World Heritage site several departments were undertaking unplanned and short term development activities which had resulted in further deterioration of the delta. The court then took up the matter.
The NGT had earlier directed the state government to demolish all unauthorised constructions that have come up in the Sunderbans. The chief secretary was asked to file a report on March 4 on what actions had been taken. The government had however failed to take any action except for forming a 23-member committee.
On Wednesday the tribunal also directed the district magistrate of South 24-Parganas to demolish some of the illegal structures that have come up in Canning area. The report will have to be submitted on March 20.
Sunderbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger. It is also said to be the saviour of Kolkata as the mangrove absorbs most of the fury of storms before they hit the city.
Dutta also placed before the court 12 points which he claimed should be immediately undertaken to protect the delta from further degradation. These include fixing accountability, strict monitoring of tourist boats, hotels, fishermen and barges, installation of early warning devices among others.