Picture this: 12,500 hectares of watery green with botanical garden, bird sanctuary, amusement park and more; eco-tourism, horticulture, water sports and more. And all well within city limits.
The Centre has given the preliminary nod for the East Calcutta Wetlands Development Project and asked the state government to furnish details and guidelines. Work on the Rs 500-crore, 30-month project at the Ramsar site can start only after a final green signal from the ministry of forests and environment.
The initial nod of approval has been conveyed to state environment secretary Asim Barman by Union forest and environment secretary Pradipta Ghosh, through a letter dated July 10.
According to environment department officials, Barman held a meeting with Ghosh on June 29, at which the technicalities of the project were discussed.
“We also talked about the financial implications,” Barman said. “We have been urging the Centre for the past two years to come forward to protect the wetlands. We are happy that the Centre has finally agreed to our proposal… We will send the detailed project report within a month,” he added.
If things go according to plan, a bulk of the funds could flow in from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) or the World Bank.
“Since this is a Ramsar site, the ministry of forests and environment in Delhi is in talks with these two agencies,” said Barman.
The East Calcutta wetlands have been recognised by Wetlands International as “an international ecological site” under the Ramsar convention.
Once included in the list by Wetlands International, under a convention signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, no land-use is permissible in the waste-recycling region other than that which supports wetlands or wetlands-related practices.
According to environment department officials, the East Calcutta wetlands, situated off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and spread over an area of nearly 12,500 hectares, will be developed in a comprehensive manner.
Barman said the project would not only protect the environment but also generate employment and lead to resource mobilisation required for the all-round development of the green zone.
A separate and independent authority would be created to monitor the project.
“The site will become a hotspot for tourists,” added Sudip Bandopadhyay, chairman, West Bengal Pollution Control Board.
The plan is to remove all encroachments and recover the land that has been grabbed over the years.
“We intend to provide alternative livelihood to those displaced, by involving them in the project’s implementation,” said an environment department official.