Sunday, July 21, 2024

Construction Resumes on Unauthorized Bridge in East Kolkata Wetlands Despite Court Orders

Despite two directives from the Calcutta High Court ordering the removal of construction and restoration of a canal in the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), work has recommenced on a bridge project in the area. Heavy earth-moving machinery has been observed narrowing the canal by dumping debris, with concrete pipes being laid to form the bridge. Locals report that a fish farming bheri, previously closed, is likely to be filled for commercial development. The use of internationally protected wetlands for such construction, in violation of court orders, has raised concerns.

On Wednesday, a crane and an excavator were spotted in an EKW field used by children for play, prompting a 12-year-old to question the intrusion. Despite the construction being halted last year, it resumed on Tuesday, with an excavator depositing debris into the canal for the bridge foundation. It is anticipated that a more substantial concrete bridge will be built to facilitate commercial use of the drained bheri. The construction site, located near Bantala Bazar on Basanti Highway, is easily accessible, with a constructed road leading from the highway to the bheri.

The Ramsar site has witnessed alarming construction, influencing land prices and compelling bheri owners to sell. The constructed road has led to plots being filled and houses erected, with concerns that the construction will extend to the opposite side of Bidyadhari 2 canal once the bridge is completed, as noted by an environmental activist.

Despite a hearing notice served to the owners of the construction site, and a subsequent demolition order in June 2023, the construction persists. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) claims to have acted on the order, but environmental officials express readiness to investigate any further attempts to construct the bridge. The Calcutta High Court, in a hearing the previous month, reiterated the imperative to demolish the construction and restore the canal, establishing a committee to oversee the order’s implementation.

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