The authorities in West Bengal are directed by the National Green Tribunal to demolish a hotel constructed in Sunderbans in violation of environmental norms. The West Bengal State Coastal Zone Management Authority (WBCZMA) and Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) had raised concerns about the legality of hotel construction in the Sunderbans. And that was the subject of the tribunal’s hearing.
A petition opposing Hotel Sonar Bangla, Sunderbans
In July 2021, Sonar Bangla, Sunderbans submitted an application to the WBCZMA for the clearance of a project. Furthermore, Hotel Sonar Bangla Sundarbans is located in Mouza in South 24 Parganas District, West Bengal. The total project area is 33,623.27 sq. km. And, according to the proponents, the project is an eco-friendly resort to promote rural tourism.
On scrutinizing the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) map and the documents submitted by the project proponent to the WBCZMA, it was observed that 77.43% of the project area lies mainly within CRZ IA (11.84%) and no developer zone (65.59%).
Hence, the Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) along with the WBCZMA filed a petition to the National Green Tribunal in 2021. They highlighted that, as per CRZ notification 2011, the establishment of hotels in these areas is not permissible. Therefore, cannot be allowed.
The WBCZMA also noted that some structures of the project were already constructed by the project proponents without any prior approval. The CRZ report by IESWM (Institute of Environmental Studies & Wetland Management) found that cottages, swimming pools, etc have already been constructed without obtaining clearance. Hence, they were in complete violation of CRZ Notification, 2011.
Read more: NGT directs authorities to demolish hotel constructed in Sundarbans
Judgment by the National Green Tribunal
Under the coastal regulation zone notifications, the Sundarbans are a critically vulnerable coastal area (CVCA). Therefore, no construction is allowed there, according to a bench led by Justice A. K. Goel.
“We uphold the stand of WBCZMA and declare the constructions made by the project proponent to be illegal. A joint committee of WBCZMA, 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 said in February 2023.
The bench also noted that the project proponents started the construction in April 2019 illegally. But, sought CRZ clearance from the WBCZMA for the first time in July 2021.
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