Eastern Times, Kolkata: Sabuj Mancha, the platform of environmentalists and experts, recently submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee drawing her attention to some burning issues concerning the environment of the state notably after the impact of Covid 19 and Yaas.
The Mancha, which raised the issues, asked the CM’s intervention seeking the involvement and coordination of several departments from the state.
Following are the issues raised by the Sabuj Mancha in front of the CM:
Rivers, Wetlands, Water bodies
1. There are large numbers of rivers in the state. Habitat and livelihood of more than 10 million people depend on these rivers. We are worried to observe that condition of most of these rivers is precarious. Flow of several rivers has been choked. Encroachments on the rivers, rampant sand mining, unlawful installation of brick kilns, disposal of municipal, medical and COVID waste, discharge of untreated industrial waste are regularly taking place. National Green Tribunal in 2019 directed for rejuvenation of 351 most polluted stretches of rivers of India. Among those, 17 river stretches of West Bengal were identified. Plans have been prepared and budget has been allotted for them. Still any notable progress has not been observed.
We request: Immediate action may please be taken to maintain flow of the rivers, keep them free of encroachment, demolish all illegal constructions, and stop discharge of liquid effluents and waste. Verdict of the NGT may please be executed.
2. In absence of initiative of the Central Government, long pending disputes on trans-boundary rivers like Atreyee, Mathabhanga on the issues of water sharing, pollution due to discharge of toxic chemicals, excessive mining etc. are not being resolved.
We request: Considering the interest of the people of the state, pressure may be built up on the Central Government to take up the matters with the governments of the neighboring countries to resolve the long pending issues.
3. East Kolkata Wetland is considered as kidney of Kolkata. This wetland used to purify the untreated effluent, discharged by Kolkata, through natural process, at almost free of cost. Simultaneously it helped farming vegetables and fish. Now innumerous illegal constructions have occupied this Ramsar Site. Day by day they are flourishing. Several hundreds of complaints have been lodged against such illegal constructions by the authorities at several police stations. But action has been taken against very few of them. Gradually this wetland is being destroyed.
We request: Action may please be taken to demolish all the illegal constructions. Rejuvenate the wetland; conserve the system of natural treatment and farming of fish and vegetable.
4. Wetlands and water bodies throughout the state are being filled up. land use character is being changed blatantly violating the laws. The precious wetlands and water bodies like Tapan Dighi, Bhandardaha Bill are dying in absence of any care. Biodiversity of many water bodies like Joypur Bill, Santhragachi Jhil are being destroyed. The large number of small scale fish workers, who depended on these wetlands and water bodies for their livelihood, are being evicted from their traditional occupation. The small scale fish workers, who protect the quality of the water bodies and biodiversity for their own interest, are deprived of any rights over the water.
We request: Policy may be made to save the wetlands and water bodies. User rights of the local small scale fisher people is recognised and they may be allowed to continue their livelihood. They on their own interest will protect the wetlands and water bodies.
We request: An exclusive department may please be formed, heading a cabinet minister for protection of the rivers, wetlands and water bodies. This department will look after all the environmental violations and take necessary action in coordination with irrigation, land, environment, public health, public works and other related departments.
Environment of Sundarban and Coast
5. Rampant construction of hotels and resorts are being constructed right on the sea beaches and river beds in Mandarmani, Tajpur, Gosaba, Kakdwip, Mousuni and other areas of coast and Sundarban. All legal restrictions are being violated. Sand of the beaches is being lifted to construct hotels. All beach vegetations are being destroyed to facilitate view of the sea from the hotels. Large number of cars is plying on the sea beaches violating CRZ Notification. Mangroves are being destroyed to develop shrimp farms. Large tract of areas in the coastal region are being occupied and transformed for mono culture of shrimp, destroying agricultural land and polluting rivers, canals and the sea. The huge destruction recently caused by the YAAS has been resulted due to such destructive activities.
We request: Destructive activities and unscrupulous tourism in Sundarban and coastal areas may please be stopped as soon as possible. Strict measures may be taken against the destructie activities like shrim farming destroying mangrove forests and agricultural fields. The degenerated areas may be rejuvenated by planting large number of mangrove saplings.
6. Trawlers and large mechanized boats are plundering fish stock in near shore regions and estuaries of the rivers violating existing laws. Fish habitats and various fish species are being destroyed. Small scale fish workers, whose livelihood is dependent on good water and pollution-free environment, are now being evicted from their profession.
We request: Marine Fisheries Act may please be strictly implemented and over and destructive fishing by trawlers and large mechanized boats in near shore areas and estuaries may be completely stopped. Rights of the small scale fish workers to anchor their boats on the fish landing beaches, activities like sorting and drying of fish, mending of nets etc. are recognized.
7. Large areas in several parts of our state are drought prone. At the same time, several studies revealed that in some districts, even areas near Sundarban in south Bengal, water table is drastically getting down. Arsenic and fluoride contamination in underground water in different districts is alarmingly increasing. Your call for harvesting water (jal dharo, jal bharo) was responded with enthusiasm at initial stage but now, such effective projects have been abandoned. Extraction and misuse of underground water for agriculture and commercial purpose are increasing in a large scale.
We request: Restriction on extraction of groundwater for agriculture and commercial use may please be imposed. Water harvesting (jal dharo, jal bharo) may be made compulsory. Water bodies may be constructed near cities and towns so that effluent discharge may be treated there by natural process at low cost. At the same time the water bodies may be useful for fish farming, conservation of biodiversity and recharge of underground water.
8. In most of the cities and towns of the state, waste collection system has been introduced. But in almost all the cases, processing of waste is not being done. Therefore major portion of the waste is being dumped in open ground, on roadsides or being disposed of in the rivers and wetlands. In case of populated Panchayet areas, even collection system has not been introduced. Surroundings are being dangerously polluted. Though there is clear mandate in the Waste Management Rules 2016 for involving waste pickers in the waste management system, the same has not been introduced anywhere.
We request: source segregation and processing of waste is introduced in all the cities, towns and populated panchayet areas. Involving the waste pickers in waste management, recycling of dry waste and composting of wet waste may please be undertaken.
Bio-medical waste and COVID waste
9. Though there is adequate infrastructure of treatment of bio-medical waste in the state, reasonable amount of such waste do not reach there for treatment. Such waste is being dumped anywhere and everywhere. They are getting mixed up with municipal waste. Saleable waste, before treatment, is being salvaged from the health care units by nexus of unscrupulous traders and some corrupted health care workers.
Especially in case of COVID waste, there is complete anarchy. In absence of proper control in disposal of such waste, many squatters and slum dwellers have been affected in first and second phases of the pandemic. A special committee was formed by the State Pollution Control Board to look after this problem. But later, none of the recommendations of the committee was implemented. On the other hand, responsibility of COVID waste has been illegally given by the State Health Department to such a concern, which neither have any such infrastructure of treatment nor have any valid authorization of the State PCB. In absence of proper collection and treatment of such hazardous and infectious waste, crisis is being acute.
We request: Strict vigilance may please be introduced for management of bio-medical waste and COVID waste. Monitoring may please be enhanced in the COVID waste generating centres. Responsibility of COVID waste may be given to concerns which have treatment facility and authorization of WBPCB.
10. According to the information of the Pollution Control Board, not only Kolkata, but also in many rural areas of the state like Bardhaman, Bakura, Malda, Murshidabad etc., air pollution is severely increasing. Number of deaths due to air pollution in the state is second highest in the country.
We request: Adequate and necessary action may kindly be taken. Introduction and increase of use of LPG, CNG etc. in automobile sector, increase of production of solar and wind energy in power sector, use of proper coverage and other measures in construction sector and regular repair and renovation of roads may please be undertaken.
11. Sound pollution throughout the state is affecting all the citizens. Unrestricted use of microphones, DJ, fire crackers and honking of the vehicles has made life miserable. Even hospitals are not exempted during festivals. Due to persistent watch and appeals of Sabuj Mancha, some actions at some places have been taken sporadically but any effective control has not been established. Several citizens had to lose their lives after raising protests against noise pollution. Sound menace has been unbearable due to the acts of some unscrupulous criminals and vast number of unaware citizens.
We request: All the legal provisions to restrict noise pollution may please be implemented. Both Police and the State Pollution Control Board have to discharge their duties sincerely. Few initiatives to stop fire crackers at some places at the time of festivals are not enough. All out action throughout the state to stop unbearable microphones, DJs and honking may please be taken.
12. In vast areas of western parts of western region of the state, existence of millions of people have become impossible due to severe pollution from sponge iron and ferro-alloy units, open cast mines, stone quarries etc. Life has been miserable for entire population, especially for the children and older and ailing citizens. Rivers, water bodies, agricultural fields and air have become so polluted that
the lives of the cattle and wild animals and birds have been endangered. In other areas of the state, large number of factories and production units, cement factories, chemical factories is discharging waste and toxic effluents anywhere and everywhere. Their toxic gaseous discharge is polluting the surrounding air and atmosphere.
We request: Vigilance against excessive pollution caused by the industrial units may please be increased and strict actions may be taken against all such violations. To protect the interest of the workers and the neighboring people, watch dog committees may be constituted including their representation. Periodic review may please be conducted. Destruction of forests, eviction of traditional dwellers including STs and SCs in the name of expansion of industrial units may be immediately stopped.
13. Our state once was in a leading position in production of renewable energy. But now we are on twelfth position. Total production capacity of the state now is 16,187 MW. Out of this, source of 14,177 MW is burning of coal. In spite of that, the plan for installation of another opencast coal mining in vast areas of Birbhum district raises huge concern.
We request: All out initiative may please be taken to increase production of solar and wind energy in the state to fight against global warming. Citizens may please be encouraged to start their own initiative. Initiative for installation of opencast coal mining at Panchami of Birbhum or any place may please be abandoned.