A 22-acre water body in the East Kolkata Wetlands that had been partially filled over the previous two years and on which a playground had been constructed is now being reclaimed through construction.
When the Dhapa Souza’s Bongheri Bheri is restored, it will set a precedent and, in the opinion of government sources, serve as a deterrence to individuals who fill water bodies inside the restricted East Kolkata Wetlands.
A 1992 ruling by the top court prohibits changing the use of land inside the wetlands.
The East Kolkata Wetlands are divided into three categories: human habitation-permitted settlements; agricultural land; and aquatic bodies.
A water body was present at the location that is being excavated until 2019, according to a state environment department official.
Officials reviewed Google maps and satellite pictures after receiving information about the water body filling up. They discovered that the location had a water body. A representative remarked, “It appears the water body was filled starting in 2020.”
A case for the restoration of the water body was filed with the Calcutta High Court in 2021, according to Bonani Kakkar of the NGO People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC).
“One of the PUBLIC initially observed that the water body had gotten full. The East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA), even after being alerted about it, did nothing. When that happened, we went to court,” Kakkar stated.
According to a representative, the high court requested that the wetlands management authority restore the water body.
“A little more than ten days ago, we began excavating the site. According to Kaliyamurthi Balamurugan, the West Bengal government’s chief environment officer, “We have paid the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation to restore the water body, which was stretched across 22 acres.
A project management business that planned to carry out fishing projects on the property where the water body existed, according to officials in the environment department, had submitted applications. Earlier, the business had also indicated a desire to develop a resort there.
The business now claims that the land’s owners granted them a lease before it was taken. They’re saying they gave it to the sub-lessee, who was a person. The claim still needs to be verified, and we haven’t found the land’s owners yet either. According to a representative, the mutation records are not current.
Several water bodies in the East Kolkata Wetlands had been filled over the years, department officials acknowledged.
The East Kolkata Wetlands’ designation as a Ramsar site, which is only given to a select few bodies of water worldwide, is partly due to their “wise use” of wastewater.
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Environmentalists claim that Kolkata’s 12,500 hectares of wetlands act as a natural sewage treatment facility.
Before being discharged into the Bidyadhari river, the city’s sewage passes through wetlands and undergoes natural treatment from exposure to sunlight.
An environmentalist said that the city would have had to spend billions of dollars on sewage treatment facilities but for the wetlands. Additionally, fishing and agriculture use the sewage water that has been treated.
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