NGT Orders Demolition of Hotel constructed in Sundarbans

The National Green Tribunal has directed authorities in West Bengal to demolish a hotel constructed in Sundarbans in violation of environmental norms.

The tribunal was hearing a matter pertaining to the permissibility of a hotel construction in Sundarbans, for which the West Bengal State Coastal Zone Management Authority (WBCZMA) had raised objections.

A bench of Chairperson Justice A K Goel said Sundarbans was a critically vulnerable coastal area (CVCA) under the coastal regulation zone notifications and no construction was permissible in a CVCA.

“We uphold the stand of WBCZMA and declare the constructions made by the project proponent to be illegal. A joint committee of WBSCZMA, district magistrate and senior superintendent of police (SSP) may ensure the demolition of illegal constructions and restoration of the area within three months from today,” the bench also comprising Justices Sudhir Agarwal and B Amit Sthalekar along with expert member A Senthil Vel said.

The bench noted that mangroves protect life and property by obstructing strong winds and tidal actions.

“Mangroves… provide important ecosystem services for flood protection in coastal areas and also benefit the region economically and construction of concrete structures near the coast changes its geological characteristics and causes irreversible damage to the mangrove ecosystem,” it said.

The bench said the project proponent started construction in April 2019 illegally but sought post facto CRZ clearance for the first time in July 2021.

Referring to a 1996 judgment of the Supreme Court, the bench underlined that the apex court had disapproved the reduction of no construction zone from 100 metres to 50 metres, having regard to ecological consideration for the protection of the coastal area.

The tribunal also noted its earlier observations that said, “Sundarbans which is densely covered by mangrove forests is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger houses a large variety of birds, reptiles and invertebrate species, including the saltwater crocodile the Sundarbans has been declared as a National Park and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a designated Ramsar site.”

The green panel also said there was an apprehension of areas close to the sea being affected by climate change and so a suitable distance must be maintained from the sea for any construction. PTI

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