The eastern bench of the national green tribunal (NGT) on Thursday directed that a high-power committee be formed to probe the allegation that the Saraswati river has been filled up: in several parts of Howrah.
The Saraswati is a centuries-old river that is believed to have mythological roots and currently flows through the Howrah and Hooghly districts in south Bengal.
Environment activist Subhas Datta has levelled the allegation. According to him, the encroachments include a major one in the Ankurhati area by a private developer, who allegedly “has dumped a huge quantity of fly ash/soil… blocking the river”.
The NGT bench comprising Justice B. Amit Sthalekar and expert member Saibal Dasgupta directed that a committee be constituted with senior scientists from both the central and state pollution control boards, a senior official from state irrigation department and a retired official from state environment department to look into the matter and submit a report within a month.
The NGT bench asked the state pollution control board to act as the nodal agency. Petitioner Datta will accompany the committee during its field visit.
Environment activist Subhas Datta, in his submission, alleged that the river has been filled with fly ash and soil to stop its flowThe Plurals
“The committee shall visit the site in question and give a detailed report as per the allegations made in the original application with regard to dumping of soil/fly ash, illegal constructions, dumping of solid waste and untreated drainage and sewage water into the River and other related issues. The Committee is also directed to take water samples of the River stretches at different points…” reads the order, a copy of which is with this reporter.
Datta, in his submission, alleged that the river has been filled with fly ash and soil to stop its flow. Illegal bridges are being constructed over the river and untreated wastewater and garbage are polluting the river. The river has also been encroached at several points in the name of road widening.
“At a place named Ankurhati in Howrah, one private developer is constructing a massive complex and has dumped a huge quantity of fly ash/ soil in the river, blocking the river course,” alleged Datta, adding that complaint letters have long been sent to various authorities with little response so far.
“Once the committee submits its report, we will act as per the direction of the tribunal,” said Sibojyoti Chakrabarty, the state lawyer in the caseThe Plurals
“I submitted during the hearing that though river Saraswati is polluting the Hooghly river at Tribeni in Hooghly and Sankrail in Howrah, it has not been included under the Union government’s National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) programme. And the bench has asked the NMCG to take note of it,” said Datta.
“Once the committee submits its report, we will act as per the direction of the tribunal,” said Sibojyoti Chakrabarty, the state lawyer in the case.
Samar Koley, who has long been fighting for Saraswati, alleged that even after a clean-up of 40km out of its total 76km sometime back, the stretch is again being encroached upon like in Ankurhati.