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Nod for 80 houses in wetlands

The state government has allowed construction of 80 houses in the East Calcutta Wetlands, triggering protest from environment activists who have demanded relocation of all residents of the area.

“We have cleared 80 of the 320-odd applications for building houses by residents living in the wetland area. Another 35 are being considered,” Nitai Kundu, the chief technical officer of the East Calcutta Wetlands Management Authority, said after a meeting chaired by chief secretary Samar Ghosh at Writers’ Buildings on Friday afternoon.

For plots up to three cottahs, construction will be allowed on half the area. The limit is 40 per cent for plots measuring between three and five cottahs.

“Plots larger than 5 cottahs will not be considered as residents of the 97 villages in the area are unlikely to own such large tracts of land,” said Kundu.

Environment activist Subhash Dutta said an area as rich in biodiversity as the wetlands should be kept “totally free” from human habitation.

“The government should, instead, relocate all those living in the 12,500-hectare wetlands after giving them proper compensation,” he told Metro.

The wetlands management authority will consider the proposals of five private companies to set up commercial eco-tourism centres after they submit detailed project reports.

“The proposals will be considered after the detailed project reports are submitted. If approved, clearance will be given for a year. After that approvals will depend on whether they are adhering to the guidelines,” said Kundu.

Dutta said no form of tourism, except for educational purposes, should be allowed in the wetlands.

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