You must be aware that Tolly’s Nullah,
the original course of the Ganga (Adi Ganga), is in a a sordid state. Thish
eritage river is now polluted and nearly a dead one. Though there are a
number of schemes to clean it, nothing much is taking place.
Sankha Ghosh (Poet), Ashish
Ghosh (ExDirector Zoological Survey of India), Prof. S.C.Santra
(Head, Environmental Sciences Dept. Kalyani University), Shirshendu
Mukhopadhyay (Novelist), Prof. Partha Chattopadhyay (Director,
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta), Prof.
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Historian, Chicago University, Jogen Choudhury
(Painter),Ramananda Bandyopadhyay (Painter) Shaonli
Mitra (Actress and Playwright), Gautam
Bhadra (Historian) Bhola Nath Aich (Former Chief Engineer,
Irrigation & waterways, Govt. of West
(Translated from Bengali)
Meeting to save Adi Ganga
The first public meeting to protest construction of Metro Rail over Adi Ganga, the Heritage River, was organised by Vasundhara at the auditorium of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, 10 Lake Terrace, Calcutta 700 029.The meeting started at 3-10 pm. By that time the auditorium was full to capacity.
Shukla Mitra introduced Vasundhara to the audience speaking briefly on its past and present activities. Mohit Ray initiated the discussion on behalf of Vasundhara. He informed that a news in a daily on 7th January stated that Metro Rail is going to be constructed on Adi Ganga. Being concerned Vasundhara members enquired to Dept. of Environment, Govt. of West Bengal and to Metro Rail. After being confirmed, Vasundhara decided to launch protest as this will destroy a river both ecologically and culturally. On their request a number of eminent people from the field of environment and culture appealed for cleaning of Adi Ganga and for change in Metro’s plan. Mohit Ray also explained how the work has started without any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and thus violating legal norms.
Gautam Bhadra, eminent historian, recalled his days when Adi Ganga was
in better shape and its link with local life. He also expressed concern
about the displacement due to the project. Debashish Basu, a specialist
on history of Calcutta and physician by profession, gave a lucid description
of the historical and cultural aspects of Adi Ganga. He also described
the role of Major Tolly in reviving the canal system. Ashish Ghosh, former
director of Zoological Survey of India, talked about the CEMSAP (Calcutta
Environmental Management Strategy Action Plan) project and how the recommendation
to revive Tolly’s nullah was made. K.Bandyopadhyay, former hydrologist
of Calcutta Port Trust, expressed his doubt of reviving the canal system
because of inherent problems of tidal rivers.
The meeting had to be cut short because of shortage of time so no discussion could be held. However the whole proceedings has been highly appreciated by the audience.
The programme was assisted by Calcutta 36, Tollygunge Development Council
and Disha. Mazahar-ul-Hussain, Gautam Sen, Basudev Ghatak, Amit Dutta,
Saswati Ghosh of Vasundhara and others helped to make it a success.
HIGHCOURT’S JUDGEMENT AND AFTER
CITIZENS MEET EXPRESSES FRUSTATION ON CALCUTTA HIGHCOURT’S JUDGEMENT ON EXTENSION OF METRO RAIL OVER ADI GANGA
Calcutta High Court has recently passed an order, which allows Metro Rail to continue its construction on Adi Ganga without the requirement of any environmental clearance. To discuss the present situation and future course of action Vasundhara convened a citizen’s meeting on 25th April 2001, at 5 pm at the auditorium of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta. Mohit Ray of Vasundhara explained the background for this meeting. He said that the meeting was to discuss the legal issues related to the Adi Ganga case and also the issue of revival of defunct rivers to improve environment and heritage.
Vasundhara first raised the issue of destruction of Heritage River Adi Ganga by Metro Rail expansion project and mobilized the citizen’s support. Shri Rebati Bhushan Bhattacharya, known for his long fight to revive Adi Ganga, discussed the latest position of his contempt case in High Court for cleaning of Adi Ganga. It may be recalled that Rebati Babu filed a writ petition in 1995 to clean Adi Ganga. In April 1998, High Court disposed the case ordering the State Government to clean Adi Ganga from Hastings to Garia in 18 months. Rupess 290 million has been given by Central Government for this work. But nothing has been done so far. Rebati Babu has therefore filed a contempt petition which is now pending.
Shri Subhas Dutta of Ganatantrik Nagarik Samit Howrah is already fighting more than twenty environmental cases. He filed a writ petition in Calcutta High Court challenging the Metro Rail project in January 2001. He spoke in details about the case and the verdict. Calcutta High Court has allowed the Metro Rail to continue work without any environmental clearance. It justified its action by citing Clause 11 of the Railways Act, 1989 which permits Railway administration to construct “upon, across, under or over any lands, ….any rivers, canals, brooks, streams or other waters”. It is in fact Clause 7 of the Railways Act, 1890 which was updated in 1989. As Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is an earlier act, High Court thought to give preference to Railways Act, 1989. Shri Subhas Dutta spoke eloquently to explain that the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, has been enacted as a commitment to the United Nations Stockholm Conference of 1972 which has been mentioned in the preamble of the Act. India later also was one of the signatories of agenda 21 of United Nations Biodiversity conference in 1992. So with this background Railways Act, 1989 should not get any preference. Subhas Dutta is planning to challenge the verdict in Supreme court. There was a live discussion on this topic.
Dr. Ashis Ghose,
ex-Director Zoological Survey of India, Samar Bagchi, ex-Director Birla
Science Museum took part in it.
Debaprasad Bhattacharya, Saswati Ghosh, Shukla Mitra, Gautam Sen and others
helped in smooth functioning of the meeting.
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