The eastern zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday asked the state government to submit the status report on bringing the environment-friendly compressed natural gas (CNG) to Calcutta and other areas of the state.
The bench, comprising Justice Amit Sthalekar and expert member Saibal Dasgupta, also asked the state to bring on record “the district-wise action plan” about laying CNG pipelines.
The Telegraph has a copy of the order.
Earlier, the tribunal had only stressed on transporting CNG to Calcutta and Howrah.
“The judicial member said he is from a smaller city compared to Calcutta. Even in his city CNG has been available for quite some time. He expressed surprise as to why Calcutta still does not have the green fuel,” said a lawyer who participated in the virtual hearing.
“The expert member pointed out that 10 years have already elapsed since the state signed an agreement with the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) on bringing CNG,” the lawyer said.
“In 2011, the state government had signed an agreement with GAIL to bring CNG to Calcutta but nothing has happened on the ground so far,” alleged petitioner and environment activist Subhas Datta.
Monday’s order was passed after GAIL informed the bench that “the acquisition of RoU (right of user) in West Bengal has been very slow” and pointed out that so far only 65 per cent of the land required for laying the pipelines had been acquired.
The agency informed the bench that no land had been acquired so far for the stretch between Hansghara in Hooghly and Calcutta, the lawyer said.
All other states involved in the 858km pipeline project — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand — have already completed acquiring the required land, the agency said.
Only after the acquisition process is complete can work on laying the 100km pipeline work for Calcutta start, GAIL said in its submission to the green tribunal.
The pipes will run through the districts of Hooghly, Nadia and North 24-Parganas.
“The NGT’s decision may be prompted by the fact that air pollution is increasing everywhere,” said an environment department official.
The Telegraph recently reported how all the districts in the state, barring Kalimpong, have been impacted by the air pollution.
“In March 2020, the tribunal had directed the then chief secretary Rajiva Sinha to personally monitor compliance of its order on bringing CNG to the city after reminding the state that it had taken almost no steps to expedite the supply of CNG in the last few years. But nothing happened on the ground. We expect the situation to change after the current order,” an environmentalist said.
Anumita Roy Choudhury, an air pollution expert from the environment think tank Center for Science and Environment, pointed out that bringing CNG to Calcutta and other urban areas is crucial to minimise air pollution.