KOLKATA, 17 NOV.: Reacting sharply on housing minister Mr Gautam Deb’s comments yesterday in a press conference, city based environmentalists today said the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Rajarhat Township project was concocted and the EIA committee was manipulated.
They also slammed the minister who claimed that the High Court has not even once raised any objection against the project.
A peoples’ green court was held on 14 March 1999 in Salt Lake that was then moderated by Dr Upen Biswas, retired additional director of CBI. Following this, Mr Subhas Dutta Dutta, green activist, had filed a PIL in the High Court against the environmental degradation of the ecologically sensitive wetlands where the project was being executed. The High Court had instructed that the project couldn’t proceed without an EIA report. The court further instructed that the project cannot be on the 3,075 hactare and the project area should not exceed 622 hactare.
Mr Nilotpal Dutta, secretary of Rajarhat Jami Bacchao Committee, said that the project area was divided into several parts and named Action Areas. Action area I was given clearance by the environment department on the basis of the EIA report that was influenced.
Mr Subhas Dutta said that EIA committee was not qualified enough to conduct the assessment. The head of the assessment team was bribed and was soon promoted to a better position for giving a clean chit to the project. All aspects of environment were not considered in the EIA. “If project authority decides the agency that would conduct the EIA study, how can it be impartial? Moreover, there was no public hearing on this issue,” he added. Its takes 14-16 months to conduct an EIA study but in case of Rajarhat Township Project, the study was wrapped up in two weeks, he added.
Mr Shyamal Ghosh, secretary of Peoples Green Society, said that the project has disturbed the natural sewage and drainage flow. Dhupir Bill and Ghunir Bill have been filled up. The Nowpara Khal has been filled up to construct a road. Since the project area is situated on the Vidyadhari basin, if case of heavy Monsoon, there is a chance that the entire Barrackpore sub-division, Bangur, Lake Town and Even Salt Lake would be flooded. Moreover, the township is reeling under water crisis, as the groundwater is Arsenic contaminated.
Mr Nilotpal Dutta said that in a survey it was found that 15 lakh trees have been felled from the area. In the column of the EIA sheet, where HIDCO had to tick on the nature of the land whether it is a marsh, wetland or agricultural land, the HIDCO authorities just wrote vacant. “When EIA study was directed, a lot of construction was already complete,” he added.