Kolkata: A section of Trinamool workers in north Dum Dum believe that the involvement of local party workers in illegal filling up of waterbodies has angered, which led to the defeat of their candidate Chandrima Bhattacharya in the last assembly polls.
Sensing the local sentiment against rampant fill-up, CPM candidate of north Dum Dum, Tanmoy Bhattacharya, who won from the constituency, installed information boards cautioning such activities. The boards with the message “Jalashay raksha karun, jalashay parichhanna rakhun, jalashay bhorat hote deben na (protect wetlands; keep them clean and don’t allow its fill-up)” have been put up along the few remaining water bodies in the region.
However, according to local residents, encroachment of waterbodies continues unabated in the area, with the administration turning a blind eye to voices raised by citizen forums and green activists. A local resident said, “The latest prey to land sharks is a two-bigha pond at Nimta where local goons have been dumping earth without any hindrance despite the caution by our local MLA.”
The pond located near Nimta Battala off MB Road in north Dum Dum municipality’s ward No. 27 is the only surviving waterbody in the locality.
“Earth has been dumped to carve out a 3.5-cottah plot from the pond. Residents were encouraged to dump their garbage into the pond by local club members but MLA Bhattacharya and green activists stepped in and undertook an awareness campaign to save the pond. But this did not deter the land sharks who promptly got musclemen to continue the dumping,” said a local resident.
An ‘environment society’ formed by local youths, including green activists, made a valiant attempt to save the wetland. “We did an awareness campaign, explaining to people why it is vital to save the waterbody and planted saplings along the periphery. But they were mercilessly uprooted on the pretext of repairing the road along the pond. We have appealed to the municipal authority and West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), but in vain,” a member of the society said, alleging the fill-up was the handiwork of a nexus between local developers and Trinamool leaders.
A green activist who is also a member of the society alleged a nexus between political leaders and developers that had spelt doom for waterbodies in the belt. “An earlier attempt to fill up the pond could not succeed following stiff resistance from locals. But now, they are back with the patronage of local Trinamool Congress leaders and are blatantly dumping earth into the pond,” an activist said.
A recent study on social and environmental impacts in north Kolkata revealed that land sharks had gobbled up nearly all major waterbodies in this belt. The real estate boom in Dum Dum, Lake Town, Patipukur, Rajarhat, Baranagar, Kamarhati, Panihati, Sodepur and Barrackpore has triggered the disappearance of ponds that once dotted these areas.
According to sources, local promoters pay Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh to local goons before commencing work on real estate projects. The rates go up exponentially if a waterbody in the project area or adjoining it needs to be filled up. With land price skyrocketing at Rs 20-25 lakh per cottah and property price at Rs 4,500-5,000 per sq ft, there’s a lot at stake to fill up a waterbody.An officer of Barrackpore commissionerate said some of the notorious criminals had recently been rounded up on the basis of specific complaints of filling up ponds.
A chairman-in-council member of Trinamool-run North Dum Dum municipality acknowledges that ponds are being filled ‘illegally’ to build highrises. “We are trying to stop this with the help of fisheries department. All councillors have been warned against involvement in such activities. But still it is happening,” he said.