Environment Department: Working towards a more livable future

The scope of work of the Environment Department is very wide, exhaustive and challenging. The wings of the department work in close coordination to fulfil the commitment of the Bengal Government towards its people for a clean and more livable environment – be it in terms of air, water, noise or several other aspects.

For effective control of pollution, a number of steps, measures and policies have been initiated by the Environment Department which include stringent regulations, development and periodical revision of environment standards, control of vehicular pollution, control of air and water pollution, abatement and prevention of noise pollution, revisiting and revision of the list of critically polluted areas and their environment improvement plans, etc.

The department has been funding research projects through grants-in-aid both to its parastatals like West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), West Bengal Biodiversity Board (WBBB), East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA) and Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management (IES&WM), and also to some research institutions.

Some of the salient points regarding the working of the Environment Department:

  • WBPCB is constantly monitoring and taking suitable measures for improving air quality and reducing water body pollution.
  • An online system of WBPCB’s consent administration has been developed for transparency. All monitoring data can now be accessed from the board’s website. The consent administration has also been simplified.
  • The ‘consent to operate’ periods have been increased: from two years to five years for Red Category Industries, from three years to five years for Orange Category Industries and from five years to seven years for Green Category Industries. A new White Category has been introduced which only requires the relevant industries to give information to the WBPCB and is exempt from ‘consent’ administration.
  • The State Action Plan for climate change is being amended to strengthen the plan, introduce mitigation measures in addition to adaptation measures and bring it in line with the latest developments in various fields.
  • Actions on conservation of biodiversity, preparing a comprehensive register and promoting conservation have been accelerated.
  • A lot of work has been done for restoration and beautification of many waterbodies.
  • More emphasis has been laid on organising awareness activities to spread environment education among all sections of society and mobilising people’s participation for preservation and conservation of environment.

Source: Departmental Budget

Protection of wetlands and coastal zones in Bengal

East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA) and Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management (IESWM) are two agencies under the Environment Department. They carry out protection work for the wetlands in eastern Kolkata and research in management and conservation of wetlands across the State and coastal zones, respectively.

East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA)

EKWMA has the responsibility of managing the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW).

The East Kolkata Wetlands are situated along the eastern fringes of Kolkata. It contains a number of shallow fish ponds, agricultural fields and villages.

It is one of the most important Ramsar sites of the country, a designation implying the EKW as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’.

The wetlands possess the unique natural facility of waste water purification for the entire metropolis of Kolkata, the only Ramsar site in the world with such a function.

The wetlands are also a major source of food for the fish and other aquatic creatures inhabiting there, which in turn provide livelihood to a lot of people.

Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management (IESWM)

IESWM carries out research on wetlands and coastal zones of Bengal as well as of other parts of the country.

It houses the State Project Management Unit (SPMU) of the World Bank, which aids the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project.

The Coastal Zone Management Plan of Bengal is being prepared as part of the project. As a result of the project, which is nearing completion, significant achievements have been made, like improvement of civic infrastructure and beach amenities in Digha, 100 per cent electrification of Sagar Island (where the famous Sagar Mela is held annually), livelihood enhancement through self-help groups (SHG), 25 cyclone shelters and eco-tourism activities.

The institute is also one of the eight authorised agencies in the country for the preparation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) maps, which are referred to for getting the mandatory CRZ clearance for coastal projects. It has also prepared CRZ maps for the Central Government organisations, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Kolkata Port Trust (Haldia and Diamond Harbour sites).

Together, these two institutes have been doing a lot of significant work for various aspects of the environment of Bengal, and in the case of the latter, India too.

Source: Departmental Budget