A fishery pond, which locals are trying to save from land grabbers, in South 24 Paraganas district in Bengal.(Samir Jana/HT Photo)
A fishery pond, which locals are trying to save from land grabbers, in South 24 Paraganas district in Bengal.(Samir Jana/HT Photo)

West Bengal may lift building limits in fragile wetlands

Experts say decision will harm the area already facing threats from encroachment
By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON DEC 13, 2017 11:09 PM IST

The West Bengal government has proposed lifting building and land conversion restrictions in a section of the 12,500 hectares of East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), angering environmentalists who say the move will kill the world’s largest organic sewage management system and choke Kolkata.

A document prepared by the East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA) under the department of environment wants to divide EKW into four zones, the last of which is proposed to have no special regulation. Currently, conversion of wetland is banned and people who live on the EKW — a patchwork of sewage canals, shallow fishery ponds, and agriculture land — must seek government permission even for building culverts or new farms.

“The management plan should identify areas for creation of different management zones within the wetlands such as a) no development zone, where no changes/development shall be permitted, b) regulated development zone, c) limited change zone/wise use zone, d) “No importance to wetlands” zone, where normal regulations and not special wetland regulations may be applicable,” reads a paragraph under the sub-head ‘scope of work’ of the document titled ‘Tender for selection of agencies for preparation of management plan’. HT has a copy of the document.

The draft tender document seeking ‘expression of interest’ will have to be approved by a six-member steering committee comprising four state government officials and two environmentalists. “The draft document is not yet final. Views of experts from different disciplines will be considered before finalising the document,” said Sandipan Mukherjee, chief technical officer of EKWMA and member-secretary of the steering committee.

He said that the management plan was envisaged to reduce problems faced by the 130,000 residents of EKW who cannot even expand their existing houses.

But environmental experts say the decision will harm the wetland already facing threats from encroachment and illegal construction. “There cannot be any area of ‘no importance to wetlands’ in EKW. It sounds like the government aims at sacrificing them for urbanisation,” said Bonani Kakkar of NGO People United for Better Living In Calcutta. It was their petition in the Calcutta high court in 1992 that resulted in the ban on land conversion and special regulations.

Dhruba Dasgupta of Society for Creative Opportunities and Participatory Ecosystems (SCOPE), an NGO, pointed out that Kolkata, which houses a population of 14 million, had run out of space to expand on its northern and southern fringes, and with the west blocked by the river Hoogly, the east was the only direction to grow.

The government denied the allegations and pointed out that the document was still not final. “The government is committed to protecting the wetlands,” said Mukherjee.

Two months ago, state environment minister Sovan Chatterjee, also the housing minister and Kolkata mayor, proposed a flyover over the wetlands. The government approached Asian Development Bank for the project but was turned down. Repeated calls to Chatterjee over three days went unanswered.

KOLKATA’S LIVER

Kolkata generates more than 750 million litres of waste water and sewage daily but the city’s core area has no sewage treatment plant. Instead, an intricate network of wetlands managed by farmers and fisher folk receives the sewage, and with help from sunshine and oxygen, breaks it down to produce food for fish, which is then sold back to the city.

This unique ecosystem also produces a third of the city’s fish requirements. “EKW is Kolkata’s biggest ecological asset,” said environmentalist Dhrubajyoti Ghosh.

In 1992, the HC banned conversion of water bodies and agricultural land across the EKW. In 2002, a Geneva-based international convention, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, declared the EKW ‘a wetland of global importance’ and cited it as a model for reuse of water.

But problems began soon after. No management plan was put in place, and in the next decade, significant chunks of the area were lost to illegal construction and encroachment, said Asesh Sengupta of Kolkata Commons Centre for Inter-disciplinary Research and Analytics (CIRA).

In the absence of official surveys, gauging the extent of encroachment is difficult. A 2016 survey conducted by SCOPE at Bhagwanpur, one of the 32 mouzas, the local word for settlement, revealed water cover reduced from 88% in 2002 to 19% in 2016, while an Indian Council for Social Science Research in 2014 revealed number of fishery ponds decreased from 264 in 2002 to 202 in 2014.

PEOPLE TROUBLE

Another unique feature of EKW is the sheer number of people who live on it, estimated by activists to be around 500,000. The last official survey in 2002 put the number at 130,000. There is no official figure on the construction activity but residents admit that hutments and hovels have mushroomed in recent years — anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 units.

“There are innumerable instances of police rushing in to stop expansion or modification of existing houses,” said Pulak Biswas, a resident of Diyara village.

Records show EKWMA served four notices in June 2017, asking the recipients to restore the land within a month. None of those sites were restored till December 12. Mukherjee said the agency has no infrastructure of its own to restore land to its original state.

“The restrictions imposed on the wetlands in 1992 did not consider the realistic needs of the original inhabitants…the rules need to be relaxed for them, as these local residents are an integral part of the ecosystem,” said Dhrubajyoti Ghosh.

“Instead of measuring the encroachment and compensating it, if these areas are dropped from the map altogether, this will not only legitimise illegal construction and encroachments but also set a bad precedent. It will encourage the real estate lobby to be more reckless,” said Sengupta.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Representational image. (AP)
Representational image. (AP)

West Bengal: Community vaccination against Covid-19 begins today

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Zara Khan
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 01:10 PM IST
The vaccine will be given free at government hospitals while private hospitals will charge 250 towards price of the vaccine and services, state government officials said
Close
File photo: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.(PTI)
File photo: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.(PTI)

Tejashwi Yadav likely to meet Bengal CM on Monday, seat-sharing talks on cards

UPDATED ON FEB 28, 2021 09:27 PM IST
  • The opposition leader is also scheduled to meet senior TMC minister Firhad Hakim and hold talks about the upcoming Bengal polls.
Close
Kerala assembly Tuesday witnessed an opposition assault on the LDF government over accusations of state cops shielding a ruling party MLA, A N Shamsheer, despite being named a prime accused in his own assault case by CPM rebel C O T Naseer.(File Photo)
Kerala assembly Tuesday witnessed an opposition assault on the LDF government over accusations of state cops shielding a ruling party MLA, A N Shamsheer, despite being named a prime accused in his own assault case by CPM rebel C O T Naseer.(File Photo)

CPI(M)’s 1st rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Grounds; Congress, ISF invited

PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 09:30 AM IST
  • TMC and BJP have dismissed the Left rally as insignificant. While the TMC claims CM Mamata Banerjee will return to power for the third time, BJP says the elections are bi-polar and there is no space for the Left.
Close
Subhas Dutta said political parties have also been urged to curb decibel levels in roadshows and rallies, and not use loudspeakers without sound limiters.(HT File Photo)
Subhas Dutta said political parties have also been urged to curb decibel levels in roadshows and rallies, and not use loudspeakers without sound limiters.(HT File Photo)

WB activists urge parties to follow environmental norms during campaigns

PTI, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:47 PM IST
Activist Subhas Dutta said that letters were sent to 13 political parties in the state on February 22 about the urgent need to follow such norms, including the ones on sound pollution.
Close
Sundari tree (Heritiera fomes) forest in Sunderbans river delta. The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world and it is an Unesco World Heritage Site.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Sundari tree (Heritiera fomes) forest in Sunderbans river delta. The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world and it is an Unesco World Heritage Site.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

NHRC asks WB chief secretary to ensure human rights in Sundarbans

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 06:31 PM IST
The NHRC has been passing a series of directions adjudicating the petition and rejoinder filed by the Supreme Court lawyer and noted human rights activist, Radhakanta Tripathy.
Close
Image grab from the video tweeted Amit Malviya, BJP’s IT cell head.(Twitter)
Image grab from the video tweeted Amit Malviya, BJP’s IT cell head.(Twitter)

BJP’s ‘Lokkho Sonar Bangla’ vehicles attacked after ECI declares poll schedule

By HT Correspondent, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 05:36 PM IST
  • The BJP lodged a complaint in the Phoolbagan police station. Senior BJP leaders of the state rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.
Close
The schedule was announced in the backdrop assertions by chief minister Mamata Banerjee that the political battle between her TMC and the BJP was a personal battle as well.(HT_PRINT)
The schedule was announced in the backdrop assertions by chief minister Mamata Banerjee that the political battle between her TMC and the BJP was a personal battle as well.(HT_PRINT)

TMC tries to hold fort as BJP aims to gain ground

By Tanmay Chatterjee, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 01:47 AM IST
On Friday, the Election Commission announced dates for the assembly elections in West Bengal, where the BJP is determined to win power. Polls in the state will be held in eight phases from March 27 to April 29.
Close
File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (ANI Photo)
File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (ANI Photo)

TMC cries foul on Bengal poll announcement, others are 'happy and prepared'

By HT Correspondent, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 12:12 AM IST
  • The TMC asked the EC why the polls could not be held in fewer phases.
Close
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (HT_PRINT)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (HT_PRINT)

Mamata Banerjee questions rationale behind conducting Bengal polls in 8 phases

By HT Correspondent, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 10:23 PM IST
  • She alleged that the poll panel scheduled the election dates keeping in mind the BJP’s demands.
Close
A CBI team arrives at the residence of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee, in Kolkata on Tuesday.(ANI Photo)
A CBI team arrives at the residence of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee, in Kolkata on Tuesday.(ANI Photo)

CBI, ED raid Kolkata businessmen, others in coal smuggling scam

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:09 PM IST
  • The CBI earlier questioned Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira Banerjee in the case.
Close
Visitors at Alipore Zoological Garden in Kolkata. (PTI)
Visitors at Alipore Zoological Garden in Kolkata. (PTI)

West Bengal: Three exotic birds stolen from Kolkata zoo

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Zara Khan
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 10:22 AM IST
Preliminary investigations revealed that the miscreants had used a bird-catcher made of a stick and cloth to catch the birds. They then used a 15-foot-tall ladder kept in the zoo to climb the boundary wall and flee
Close
File photo: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.(ANI)
File photo: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.(ANI)

Yogi Adityanath to visit Malda next week to boost BJP’s Bengal prospects

By Manish Chandra Pandey, Lucknow
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:06 AM IST
  • Besides rallies, the chief minister’s itinerary could include religious stopovers at important places of worship.
Close
CM Mamata Banerjee on her way to her office on an electric scooter on Thursday. (Samir Jana/HT photo)
CM Mamata Banerjee on her way to her office on an electric scooter on Thursday. (Samir Jana/HT photo)

Mamata Banerjee rides electric scooter to protest against rising fuel prices

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Smriti Sinha
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 02:15 PM IST
Minister Firhad Hakim rode the scooter, ferrying the chief minister from her residence in south Kolkata to the secretariat in Howrah. She said she would use the electric scooter for her ride back home as well
Close
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.(ANI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.(ANI)

CM Mamata Banerjee takes a scooter to Nabanna protesting against fuel prices

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Shivani
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 01:21 PM IST
  • "Modi government only makes false promises, has done nothing to bring down fuel prices," PTI quoted the Bengal chief minister as saying.
Close
West Bengal’s deputy labour minister Zakir Hossain(HT Photo)
West Bengal’s deputy labour minister Zakir Hossain(HT Photo)

Bomb attack on Bengal minister: CID detains Bangladeshi national

PTI, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 01:21 PM IST
Hossain, Trinamool Congress MLA and the minister of state for labour, was waiting at platform number 2 to catch a train to Kolkata around 10 pm on February 17 when the blast occurred, seriously injuring him and the others.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP