Illegal Sunderbans lodges to be razed
Prithvijit Mitra, TNN, Sep 9, 2010, 01.38am IST
KOLKATA: Local authorities have cracked down on illegal structures in the Sunderbans in a late attempt to cleanse the forest of encroachments and rid it of pollution. Nine structures, built inside the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve area, will be demolished since they contravene the environment and building laws.
Demolition notices were served to the owners of these buildings on Tuesday, triggering panic in the area. In July, the state forest department had stalled the construction of a three-storey tourist lodge that was being constructed at Sajnekhali after TOI reported that it violated a high court order.
Nine tourist lodges at Pakhiralaya and Dayapur have been asked to pull down the structures in the next 15 days. "These structures have no legal sanction. More importantly, some of these have either been built on embankments or are very close to them. These could endanger the embankments and lead to flooding. So their owners have been asked to demolish them," said Arijit Mittra, BDO of Gosaba, who issued the notices.
Conservationists and green activists endorsed the move and said this should lead to the demolition of other illegal tourist lodges that have come up in other islands. "Scores of structures have come up in the Sunderbans in the last decade. Most flout the basic rules. They seriously endanger the environment of the mangrove forest, which has a fragile ecosystem. This is a welcome move," said Gautam Sen, oceanographer and a coastal zone expert.
Sundarban affairs minister Kanti Ganguly hinted that the drive against illegal buildings might continue. There were scores of structures in the forest that had no legal sanction, he said. "Other than tourist lodges, houses, clubs and even schools have been built illegally in the Sunderbans. They could be served show-cause notices," said the minister.
Of the structures that are about to be razed, five are in Pakhiralaya and four at neighbouring Dayapur. While eight of these are already being used as tourist lodges, one building is still under construction. "We shall take stock of the situation after a fortnight," said Mittra.
Recently, the Gosaba BDO office served notices to all building and lodge owners in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve area, asking them to produce their sanction papers. Most apparently failed to provide the papers which led to the demolition order.
"We have got a sanction from the local panchayat which is probably sufficient, for we have not been asked to demolish our structure. In 1993, when we constructed our building, that was what we were required to do. If the law now requires us to do something more, we are ready to do it. Our building happens to be outside the 100-metre periphery of the forest," said Mrinal Chatterjee, secretary of the Institute of Climbers and Nature-Lovers (ICNR), an NGO that runs a field camp-cum-tourist lodge at Gosaba.
The state pollution control board, however, maintained that they had no role to play in the demolition of the lodges. "Since it is a forest area, we leave it to the department concerned to take action. But to build structures in the coastal areas, you need an approval from the Coastal Regulatory Management Authority. This applies to buildings in the Sunderbans which ought to be pulled down if they been built without the sanction," said Biswajit Mukherjee, law officer, environment department.
Article at - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/c...ow/6521754.cms