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Eco-tourism to boost economy

Mohd S. Ehsan: The South 24-Parganas zilla parishad has recently implemented an exorbitant hike in sanction fees for buildings from Rs 1.8 to Rs 15 per sq ft. You have increased it eight-fold. Do you think it will affect the lower-middle class and middle-class families? Why does your zilla parishad take a long time to clear a building construction proposal? Kajal Ghosh: A journey by boat in the Sunderbans is pleasant and an adventure. The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta is the biggest in the world. The riverine islands are the only deltas where the big cats are found. But the trip is quite boring, because all through the journey, you see only water and jungle. I think by placing informative boards on tigers and other animals of the area, just like we have in the sanctuaries, the place can be made interesting. Jyoti Kaur: South 24-Parganas can boast of international tourist spots under its jurisdiction. The Sunderbans is an International Biosphere Reserve, and the East Calcutta Wetlands is a Ramsar site. Do you think the international status will help in the economic growth of the district? Jyoti Kaur: How many islands or deltas are there in the Sunderbans under your jurisdiction? Will you lease out a delta if an entrepreneur comes up with a plan to develop it as a tourist spot? Sandip Banerjee: Ganga Sagar Mela is the second largest religious gathering after Kumbh Mela. Why can’t you connect Sagar Island with the mainland by a bridge? The journey will be safer and free from the hurdles of crossing the river. Sashi Damani: Arsenic contamination is a major problem in your district. What steps have you taken to supply safe drinking water to the villagers? Can you give us the details about funds utilisation in our district? Concluded

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 6.11.06
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Bimal Mistry, sabhapati of South 24-Parganas zilla parishad, met readers of The Telegraph and answered their queries. Participants included Mohd. S. Ehsan, Kajal Ghosh, B.N. Sen, Sanjay Basu, Jyoti Kaur, Sandip Banerjee, Sashi Damani, Purna Chandra Shit, Chanchal Sarkar, Arup Chakroborty, Dinanath Mondal and Tarun Gupta



Mohd S. Ehsan: The South 24-Parganas zilla parishad has recently implemented an exorbitant hike in sanction fees for buildings from Rs 1.8 to Rs 15 per sq ft. You have increased it eight-fold. Do you think it will affect the lower-middle class and middle-class families?

This is the first time after Independence that building sanction fees have been revised. Do you think an eight-fold rise in fees in 59 years is too high for those who are constructing their own buildings?



Why does your zilla parishad take a long time to clear a building construction proposal?

I don’t agree with your allegation. If all necessary documents are in order, we don’t take much time. For example, for a two-storey structure, the local gram panchayat can clear the proposal. However, it may take some time if it is a proposal for three or more storeys. In that case, we have to check the proposal under the provisions of the town and country planning act.



Kajal Ghosh: A journey by boat in the Sunderbans is pleasant and an adventure. The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta is the biggest in the world. The riverine islands are the only deltas where the big cats are found. But the trip is quite boring, because all through the journey, you see only water and jungle. I think by placing informative boards on tigers and other animals of the area, just like we have in the sanctuaries, the place can be made interesting.



Jyoti Kaur: South 24-Parganas can boast of international tourist spots under its jurisdiction. The Sunderbans is an International Biosphere Reserve, and the East Calcutta Wetlands is a Ramsar site. Do you think the international status will help in the economic growth of the district?

A biosphere reserve or a Ramsar site does not help in the economic growth of the region directly. The funds by the international agencies will not help in regional economic growth but are for maintaining them.

However, by promoting eco-tourism, economic growth can be achieved. This would generate alternative sources of livelihood for the local inhabitants.



Jyoti Kaur: How many islands or deltas are there in the Sunderbans under your jurisdiction? Will you lease out a delta if an entrepreneur comes up with a plan to develop it as a tourist spot?

We had 102 deltas. After two islands were submerged, we now have 100 deltas. After the declaration as an international biosphere reserve, the core area has come under the monitoring of an international agency. Economic activities other than eco-tourism are not allowed.



Sandip Banerjee: Ganga Sagar Mela is the second largest religious gathering after Kumbh Mela. Why can’t you connect Sagar Island with the mainland by a bridge? The journey will be safer and free from the hurdles of crossing the river.

A proposal of constructing such a bridge is under consideration. We are conducting a survey to find out an appropriate site. A spot has been identified near Namkhana on the Namkhana-Chemaguri route, where the river is a km wide.



Sashi Damani: Arsenic contamination is a major problem in your district. What steps have you taken to supply safe drinking water to the villagers?

The public health engineering department has set up a huge plant at Dongaria, inBudge Budge block II, and more than two million people living in 10 blocks are getting regular supply of filtered surface water from the plant. The command area includes Joynagar, Bhangar, Joka and parts of Jadavpur and Garden Reach. The charge for the filtered water is nominal, Rs 30 per month.



Can you give us the details about funds utilisation in our district?

The most important expenditure for us is the maintenance of bunds to prevent floods. We have to maintain 2,700 km of bunds, for which the zilla parishad spends around Rs 12 crore. Besides, there is a 1,300- km bituminous road network, which requires frequent maintenance.

Concluded