Go back to
Home » My Kolkata » News » National Green Tribunal pulls up West Bengal chief secretary for failing to report on Santragachi Jheel pollution


National Green Tribunal pulls up West Bengal chief secretary for failing to report on Santragachi Jheel pollution

Cancelled report included plan for eco-tourism hub at Howrah lake

The Plurals News Network | Published 09.02.24, 12:35 PM
A flock of Lesser Whistling Duck at Santragachi Jheel in Howrah

A flock of Lesser Whistling Duck at Santragachi Jheel in Howrah

iStock photograph

The eastern zone bench of the National Green Tribunal has asked the chief secretary of West Bengal to submit a fresh report on the current status of pollution control in the Santragachi Jheel, rebuking him for failing to provide “proper information” and in effect trashing an earlier state government report that included a plan to build an ecotourism hub around the lake.

The fresh order, issued two days before a hearing scheduled on February 5, set a two-week deadline for submission of the report.


Santragachi Jheel in Howrah is a waterbody spread across 32 acres that is nationally known for attracting thousands of migratory birds, including rare varieties, every winter.

The tribunal had ordered the setting up of a sewage treatment plant to stop contamination of the lake from nearby habitation in 2017. The order was issued in response to a petition filed by environmentalist Subhas Datta.

But prolonged inaction over the issue by both state government agencies and the railways has prompted a fresh order from the bench of Justice B. Amit Sthalekar and expert member Arun Kumar Verma.

The general manager of Southeast Railway has also been asked to inform in the next hearing, scheduled for March 18, about the status of land that the railways is scheduled to hand over to the state for setting up the sewage treatment plant to address the waterbody’s pollution.

The bench observed that “Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal has …completely failed in getting proper information from the Departments under him as also from the Railways” regarding the issue that has been dragging since NGT first passed an order in 2017. Status Report dated 03.02.2024 … is taken on record” and added that it “expected the affidavit of the Chief Secretary dated 03.02.2024 to give an updated status report as existing on the filing of the … affidavit”.

The bench cited several examples to underline how the February 3 report was dated and directed the chief secretary “to file a fresh affidavit within two weeks…”.

‘Report tried to shift focus’: Subhas Datta

On February 3, the chief secretary submitted an affidavit to the eastern zone branch of National Green Tribunal, spelling out a series of steps to save Santragachi Jheel.

The report, a copy of which is with The Plurals, stated the measures were decided at a meeting of a high-powered committee on November 1, 2023. The committee was constituted under the tribunal order and chaired by the chief secretary. Senior railway officials and representatives of several state government agencies were also present at the meeting.

The affidavit pointed out that while the state urban development and municipal affairs department would provide funds to clean up the vegetation in the lake, mainly water hyacinth, the technical guidance should be provided by the state biodiversity board under the supervision of the district magistrate and Howrah Municipal Corporation. It was also suggested that an ecotourism project could be undertaken jointly by the state tourism department and the railways.

“The state government has been sitting on the NGT order about setting up a sewage treatment plant to check pollution of Santragachi Jheel since the last seven years; and is now trying to shift focus from the core issue of pollution control of the water body by proposing an ecotourism centre and a self-help group project with the lake hyacinth in its latest report. It’s not a surprise that the bench has effectively binned the latest report of the chief secretary and asked for a fresh one,” said environmentalist Datta.

The report, however, hardly progressed from the earlier position.

It stated that the “railway authority to provide the land and allow state govt to construct sewage treatment plant”, the cost of which will be shared by the state and railway authorities as per earlier NGT direction; which is 80 per cent by the state and 20 per cent by the railways.

The onus to stop further encroachment in the Jheel area has been shifted on to the railways, which earlier repeatedly claimed of not receiving support from state administration in countering encroachment.

The Howrah Municipal Corporation has been entrusted with the responsibility of cleaning garbage, including plastic waste as well as undertaking awareness in the area along the railway land.

“Nothing but another round of paper work. However, with NGT pushing the agenda, I expect some positive results finally,” said Datta.

“The railways is yet to respond positively to our application about the land required for the sewage treatment plant; and everything hinges on it,” Poushali Banerjee, the lawyer of the urban development department, told The Plurals on Thursday.

Last updated on 09.02.24, 04:30 PM

More from My Kolkata