In a recent significant order, the Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) fined the state government a sum of one crore rupees as “environmental compensation” for failing to demolish a tourist lodge at Godkhali within the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) in Sundarbans despite an earlier order of the tribunal. Besides directing demolition of the tourist lodge within one month, the tribunal comprising Justice S P Wangdi and Justice S P Ramakrishnan and Mr S S Garbyal directed that bank guarantee of Rs 10 lakh deposited shall stand forfeited.

The chief secretary of the state government was directed to initiate disciplinary action against the officers dealing with the Godkhali tourist lodge. The state government had stated that the tourist lodge would be converted into a desalination plant but a committee formed by the tribunal stated in its report that such a plant was a “RO Filtration Plant” making the tribunal draw an “irresistible conclusion that the state government has not been forthright”.

Time and again, the tribunal has reminded the state government that the Sundarbans fall under “ecologically fragile and sensitive zone declared as biosphere hotspot by the United Nations and the necessity to protect this precious region in the interest of environment and progeny”.

Godkhali tourist lodge remaining intact displays “obstinacy of the state government and its brazen violation of the order of the tribunal”, it was observed.

A five-member committee formed following a supplementary affidavit of amicus curiae, Subhas Dutta found inter alia that the desalination plant is technically a “RO filtration plant” and both floors of the building are planned to be utilised as such. The tourist lodge may be dismantled to make way for a bridge connecting Gosaba island which should be done when all mandatory permission for the proposed bridge is obtained and is left for consideration of Coastal Zone Management Authority.

The watch tower at Henry Island may be allowed to remain and used only for the purpose of Life Guard Tower. But the temporary tower of fishery department is to be dismantled, the committee stated.