The Silver Spring controversy on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass may have run dry, thanks to former chief minister Jyoti Basu’s intervention, but the government has set into motion an action plan to prevent waterbodies in Calcutta yielding ground to highrises.
Fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda said on Friday that a five-member task force was being constituted to check the construction of highrises by filling up waterbodies in Cossipore, Belgachhia and other parts of Calcutta. The team will submit its report within 15 days and the government will initiate action against the offenders on the basis of the report, he warned.
The task force will comprise officials and experts from the departments of fisheries, environment and municipal affairs, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the police force.
Nanda expressed “concern” about the filling up of waterbodies in large numbers and blamed it on the real-estate lobby. Most of the offenders were filling up ponds and lakes to construct multi-storeyed buildings, he alleged.
“In all, 62 FIRs have been lodged in Calcutta police stations alone, against unscrupulous builders filling up waterbodies to construct highrises. One person has been arrested in this connection,” the minister told the Assembly. “In North and South 24-Parganas, 37 and 20 FIRs have been lodged, respectively. Four persons were arrested in North 24-Parganas and 22 in South 24-Parganas. In Howrah, 95 persons were arrested and 77 FIRs were lodged with the police in the same matter.”
Nanda said the problem was not restricted to the city and its fringes, with complaints trickling in from the districts, as well. Malda, Murshidabad and East Midnapore were the districts where landfill was becoming rampant, he warned.
The CMC, meanwhile, has submitted a list of waterbodies under its jurisdiction to the fisheries department, but minus the names of the owners. As a result, the fisheries department has not been able to initiate action against those filling up some of these waterbodies.
“We have to lodge an FIR, in case we receive any such complaint. Unless we know the name of the owner of a waterbody, we can’t lodge the FIR,” Nanda explained, going on to accuse the CMC of not furnishing the ownership details despite “repeated reminders” from his department.
The focus on the Cossipore-Belgachhia belt was prompted by four recent complaints received by the fisheries department from these areas about landfill in the wetlands and subsequent construction on it.
“About 69 per cent of wetlands in the city have been degraded, either intentionally or due to negligence,” said minister Nanda.