October 22, 2013
West Bengal moving ahead towards a cleaner and greener future under Trinamool Government
Misrule and mismanagement epitomised the Left regime and the State government under Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee has been working tirelessly to systemize the functioning of departments, besides galvanizing the developmental processes. Most cities in the state, especially Kolkata, have reached dangerous levels of pollution of all kinds. The new government, soon after taking over, had taken up the serious issue and worked out a two-pronged strategy to tide over the crisis – the city needed a better green-cover and the public in general had to be made aware of the environmental issues.
The Initiatives :
To address the impending environmental disaster and avoid it at any cost, the Trinamool Government has been working on a plan. Relentless works in the past two years led to significant achievements by the state government resulting in improvements in various sectors.
Planning Commission of India for the last two years has started to quantify, the performance of the states with respect to water (based on parameters like riverine water quality, water quality etc.) forest (presence of forest coverage against prescribed coverage, density etc.). The position of the state has improved to 19th(in 2012) from 25th (in 2011).
A National Green Tribunal has also been established in Kolkata recently.
Green City :
Trinamool Chairperson Ms. Mamata Banerjee had sworn to make the city greener and more beautiful in her poll manifesto ahead of the 2011 Assembly elections. After she became the Chief Minister, she delivered on her promise. On her instruction, the forest department started a tree census. The move was revolutionary and a step towards adopting a scientific approach for making the city greener.
KMC has been coordinating with the Statistics and Botany departments of the University of Calcutta as well as NGOs who are working in the field of environment. Small groups have been formed as the counting began in 50 municipal wards in the city. KMC has also allocated a sum of Rs 15,000 per ward for the project.
According to reports by the KMC, the number of trees in Kolkata has gone down by 5 percent less trees in the last one decade. Even as the Tree Census is in progress, KMC has also started planting trees in the city and has also initiated awareness drives for protecting and planting trees. During the census, the scientific name and the species of the trees being counted are recorded.
The forest department took special measures for the Tree Plantation Week between July 7 and 14 this year. A plantation drive was carried out in 141 wards of KMC. The trees planted were fruit-bearing ones to attract birds. The KMC recently carried out a study and found that the number of sparrows and other birds has dwindled in the city. This plantation drive sought to reverse the trend.
The Environment Department, on the other hand, in collaboration with Public Works Department and West Bengal Fisheries Corporation Limited, has initiated landscaping work in Subhas Sarobar, apart from installation of aqua fountain in Rabindra Sarobar and cleaning and beautification of a part of Tolly Nullah with financial support from WBPCB.
Other Measures :
Recently, the State Action Plan on Climate Change was approved by Expert Committee at Ministry of Environment and Forests, GoI. The Action Plan, which is a collaborative effort of more than a hundred technical experts, scientists and other stake holders, will serve as a guiding document in the state government`s efforts to make Bengal cleaner and greener.
The Environment Dept. has completed a comprehensive documentation of biodiversity. The 1000-page document titled, `Status of Biodiversity of West Bengal` will serve as a benchmark and will be used in making policy decisions related to living resources of the state in years to come.
In the process to achieve a cleaner environment, a campaign for the greening of the industries has been taken by WBPCB. A massive plantation programme has been initiated throughout the industry partnership. The Environmental Compliance Assistance Centre has been made operational. Presently, this centre is helping the industries of the following sectors: tannery and chrome chemicals, lead acid battery, dyeing and bleaching units etc.
The Environment Dept. has also prepared the draft West Bengal Wetlands and Water Bodies Conservation Policy and the same has been submitted to the Government for acceptance. 8 new rainwater harvesting units are under construction, taking the total number of rainwater harvesting units constructed by Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management to 80.
A novel `Paribesh Sevak` scheme has been introduced for grassroot level monitoring of environmental issues. These environment guards will act as the government`s eyes and ears to check and report on air, water and noise pollution.
A sustained programme has been initiated by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board against use of banned plastic bags and other items. In a recent meeting with officials of all civic bodies, it has been decided unanimously to make the state free from banned plastic items.
Electromagnetic radiation hazards from cell phone towers in the state would be studied by a committee of experts from IIT Kharagpur and IIT Bombay. The committee would submit a report to the government.
The Environment Dept. has identified 11 places in Kolkata and its outskirts to establish `hot-spots`, where electronic wastes will be collected before being dismantled or recycled. Another expert committee has been asked to study disposal and utilization of municipal solid wastes for energy generation. The Environment Dept. has also expressed its interest to be involved in the activities of Ganga Action Plan to check water pollution.
West Bengal is all set to become greener, thanks to the initiative of the Environment Dept. and obviously the vision of the Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee. The Government has achieved success in generating public awareness via campaigns through several non-governmental organizations. It is now the responsibility of the people of the state to wake up and enact, follow the procedures set by the Government to make the state, as well as the country, habitable for the generations to come.