Bengal forms Rs 120 cr plan to protect East Kolkata Wetlands

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Kolkata, Jun 5 (PTI) The West Bengal government has chalked out a Rs 120 crore plan, to be executed over five years, to protect and nurture East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), a 12,500 hectare zone, a top official of the environment department said Saturday.

A wetland is a land area that has water, either permanently or seasonally, and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.

The government has also set a programme to protect the coastline of the state which was damaged during cyclones Amphan and Yaas in 2020 and last month respectively, Additional Chief Secretary (environment) Vivek Kumar said at a function held on the occasion of the World Environment Day.

The plan to protect EKW has components like ways to stop encroachment, prevent contamination of water by pesticides used in farming and effluents from tanneries, besides creating awareness about the wasteland, a designated Ramsar site, Kumar said.

A Ramsar site is a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention of 1971.

The EKW is a vital organ of the city helping to treat solid waste and averting its inundation in natural calamities, the official said.

It is a treatment plant gifted by nature, unlike man- made treatment plants which would have cost the government crores of rupees to install, he said.

Kumar said the government has formed a Sankarpur Digha Coastal Zonal Road and Management Plan to protect the state's coastline.

He said that the target of planting five crore mangrove saplings in the Sunderbans post-Cyclone Amphan had been accomplished 'and you will see the result after 8-10 years.' Mangrove plants with their intricate root system stabilise the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides.

An expert committee has been formed to suggest vegetative solutions for protection of embankments by planting mangroves and casuarina trees and a type of tall grass in the coastal areas of South and North 24 Parganas and Purba Medinipur districts, he said.

Kumar said that 17,000 saplings were planted in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation area and the adjoining Bidhan Nagar and New Town in four months after Cyclone Amphan in May last year to increase greenery and replenish any loss in tree cover in the cyclone.

The senior IAS officer said that the environment department has granted biodiversity heritage site status to Baneswar waterbody in Cooch Behar district which houses rare turtles.

Biodiversity heritage sites are areas that are unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems having rich biodiversity and having cultural or aesthetic values.

Environment Minister Ratna De Nag, present on the occasion, said that the landmass next to Kanakdurga Temple in Jhargram district where various rare plants are being preserved.

'Threat to our rich biodiversity, excessive use of plastic and depletion of forest cover contributed to an atmosphere conducive to the spread of COVID-19,' she said.

Echoing her, West Bengal Pollution Control Board Chairman Kalyan Rudra said that if the assault on nature by man continues, there will more situations like COVID-19 and the existence of human beings will be under threat. PTI SUS NN NN

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