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Hotel In Sunderbans Flouting Court Order
June 30, 2011
Hotel In Sunderbans Flouting Court Order


30 June 2011

"If a tiger comes out on the edge of the island, it will see on the opposite island a grotesque white structure. This will be nothing short of trauma for it," said a senior forest officer, pointing to a white row of hotel on the Dayapur island embankment in the Sundarbans.

The building has violated all possible rules of the land and stand as a symbol of ecological neglect at the heart of this eco-sensitive zone. Diagonally opposite Dayapur island stand famous tiger homes Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary and Sudhanyakhali island. "Just imagine how obnoxious a brick-and-mortar structure looks in the middle of the forest," said a senior officer.

Governor MK Narayanan was furious to see this 'illegal construction' during his visit to the Sundarbans on August 16 last year. His ire left the local administration startled. They hurriedly issued a demolition order.

This order was, however, set aside by the Calcutta high court for the state's slip-shod proceedings. Instead of toning up its legal team, the government took the order as an excuse for inaction. On the other hand, in complete violation of the high court order, the hotel owner went ahead with construction of the structures which are now almost ready.

New environment minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar was surprised to hear the 'dangerous news'. "How can this happen? I must take note of it and see that appropriate action is taken," he said. South 24 Parganas district magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam said, "We have lodged an FIR against the lodge owner. We will take legal action against him." But the district administration remained clueless about how the construction of the building was allowed when the high court order clearly directed the authorities to take steps in accordance with the law.

When Gosaba Sub-divisional (irrigation) officer N Kalpataru was asked why the administration did not go back to court, he conveniently passed the buck to the BDO. However, irrigation minister Manas Bhuniyan said, "I will probe it and take the required step. Sundarbans is our national pride. We just cannot let it get harmed."

The court accused the state government of violating the principles of natural justice by not giving the lodge owner an opportunity to present his version before demolishing his lodge. The slipshod inquiry and the court order, environmentalists fear, may give a further spurt to the construction of lodges in the Sunderbans.

The world heritage site has witnessed a spate of unauthorized constructions, thanks to a sudden increase of tourists from all over the world to this unique mangrove forest that harbours tigers. The state administration woke up from its slumber only after governor MK Narayanan drew the attention of officials to the illegal construction. Immediately, district magistrate Khalil Ahmed instructed the BDO to start an inquiry.

The inquiry revealed that the building violated a range of regulations, including the Forest and Environment Protection Act, Coastal Regulation Act and land acts.