The National Green Tribunal (NGT), has threatened to take action against those who are ‘indulging’ in rampant destruction of mangroves at Gangasagar if allegations that a housing complex for the poor is being constructed in the area after destroying hundreds of mangroves is found to be true. On 23 September, the NGT issued an order stating, “Let a committee be constituted comprising (i) representative of Gangasagar Bakkhali Development Authority (ii) District Magistrate, South 24- Parganas, (iii) representative of state Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA).

The committee shall inspect the area in question, verify on factual aspects and submit its report.” “If the statements are found to be true, appropriate action and proceedings be instituted against those who were indulging in such activities in accordance with law,” the NGT order stated. The NGT issued the order after environment activist Mr Subhas Dutta who is also the amicus curiae appointed by the tribunal on the Sundarbans lodged a complaint with the tribunal alleging that a housing complex is being constructed on land that falls under the CZMA without seeking any clearance.

The Statesman, on 15 August, carried a report, “Homes for landless people at the expense of mangroves?” on how houses under the ‘Banglar Abas’, a state government scheme, are coming up destroying hundreds of mangroves on around six acres land at Rupsagar, a tourist spot between Colony Para and Gangasagar Burning Ghat. “I filed a complaint with the NGT on 16 September producing the report published in The Statesman. The tribunal has taken up the issue and decided to set up a committee,” Mr Dutta said. “Sundarbans is a highly ecosensitive zone and UNESCO has also recognised it. Unfortunately, geography is being changed into history with commercialisation and human habitation destroying mangroves in Sagar Island. We have to save it,” he added.

Mangroves that help stabilise the coastlines and prevent embankment erosion by waves and storms have been destroyed for setting up of the project. In areas where mangroves have been cleared, coastal damage from hurricanes and typhoons would be much more severe, environment specialists fear. The development authority was formed at the directive of the chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee in 2013 to look after the preservation of mangroves and development of the Sagar Island in South 24-Parganas.

Seriously concerned about the impact on the ecology along the coastline, GBDA chief executive officer (CEO) Mr Jayanto Mondal had informed the matter to the local Trinamul Congress MLA and chairman of the authority Mr Bankim Hazra, local deputy panchayat pradhan Mr Haripada Mondal, sub-divisional development (SDO) officer Mr Souvik Chatterjee and state urban development and municipal affairs (UDMA) department, seeking intervention to save mangroves. The matter was also discussed in the board meeting of the GBDA recently.