Rules prohibiting filling up of wetlands do not scare the Khardah municipality. Neither does it feel that there is a need for concern over preservation of waterbodies, especially after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s promise to stop filling up the wetlands. Showing defiance, officials of the civic body, in North 24-Parganas, are filling up a 16-bigha plot at Lichubagan. In fact, they have not even bothered to take permission from the owner of the property.
The land, in which pisciculture is an on-going activity, is being filled up under the pretext that a college for girls will be built there. Armed with this assurance for the local residents, tonnes of garbage are being dumped by the municipality in the pond, limiting its periphery. The residents, however, are vehemently protesting, since the waterbody serves as a drainage outlet for about 1,500 families.
“Previously, even heavy rains failed to flood our area. But, as several new housing projects have started coming up and, consequently, the pond is being filled up, even small showers cause floods,” complained Shyamsunder Dey, a resident. “Moreover, we have several large metal-casting plants nearby. If an accidental fire breaks out in any of these, fire brigade personnel will not have any water source left to douse the flames after the pond is filled up. We had written to the authorities concerned, but no action has been taken yet to stop the filling.’’
Despite repeated stop-work instructions from the fishery department several months ago, the CPM-led municipality had paid little heed to the warnings. “We had no place to deposit the garbage, so we are dumping it on that spot for a temporary period,” claimed chairman of Khardah municipality Brajo Gopal Saha.
But within months, the pretext for the landfill changed to building a college on the spot, although there are several suitable plots lying vacant adjacent to the pond. Saha even failed to clarify whether the government had sufficient funds to build a college, or whether any notice had been sent from the higher education department to the municipality in this regard.
“We had empowered the chief executive officers of municipalities to deal with cases of wetlands being filled up in areas under the civic body’s jurisdiction. Under the Inland Fishery Act of 1984, any land, which is five cottahs or more and has water in it for at least six months at a stretch, is a wetland, whatever else it may be registered as with the block land revenue office. In this case, we have to initiate action against the CPM-led municipality. This, however, is next to impossible without the help of our seniors,” said an official of the district fishery department.
Fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda also failed to take action, even after he was made aware of the landfill about six months ago. “I do not know about the case. If the residents or the municipality members inform us, we will definitely take action,” Nanda said.