The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buck passes while Behala ponds vanish

With environment awareness drives in full swing across the city, the civic authorities and the state administration are facing serious charges of being unable to stop landsharks from grabbing the waterbodies of Behala.

“The police say they are ill-equipped to prevent landfills. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) shrugs off responsibility on the same pretext,” claimed Partha Chatterjee, Trinamul Congress MLA from Behala (West).

Officials point out that since 1986, around 6,000 residential buildings have come up in Behala and its neighbourhood. Adding to these are the large number of commercial complexes mushrooming in the area. “Most of these constructions stand on filled-up water bodies,” Chatterjee claimed. “Since 2001, I have received more than 70 complaints on this score. The CMC has issued notices in about 30 cases, but to no effect,” he added.

Legislator Chatterjee stressed on the need for involving local clubs and residents in the drive against promoters. “After helping curb the number of criminal activities in recent times, clubs and residents are coming forward to protect the waterbodies,” he said. According to him, the local police stations — Thakurpukur and Behala — should play a more active role. “The Samonnay Committees of the police stations organise pujas and other social activities. But it would be more effective if they concentrated on preventing landfills,” said the Trinamul MLA.

The police, however, denied the charges. “Whenever there is a specific complaint, we pursue the case,” asserted an official of Behala thana. “But there are cases when people complain against construction made on low land that was waterlogged. In such cases, what action does one take'” the official asked.

State fisheries department officials said they receive many landfill complaints. “Many a time, we file cases, too,” said A.K. Pattanaik, secretary, department of fisheries, on Friday.

The district authorities confirm that the practice is rampant. “Whenever such things are brought to our notice, we ask the police to take action,” said Alapan Bandopadhyay, South 24-Parganas district magistrate.

However, local residents allege that not much has been done. “We have sent several complaints to the CMC, fisheries department, police and other officials. Action has been taken in stray cases, but there are no comprehensive plans to curb the practice,” they say, pointing out at least a dozen ponds in Behala that have been filled to promote building blocks.

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