High Court's Judgement and After..
CITIZENS MEET EXPRESSES FRUSTATION ON CALCUTTA HIGHCOURT’S JUDGEMENT ON EXTENSION OF METRO RAIL OVER ADI GANGA
Calcutta High Court has recently passed an order, which allows Metro Rail to continue its construction on Adi Ganga without the requirement of any environmental clearance. To discuss the present situation and future course of action Vasundhara convened a citizen’s meeting on 25th April 2001, at 5 pm at the auditorium of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta. Mohit Ray of Vasundhara explained the background for this meeting. He said that the meeting was to discuss the legal issues related to the Adi Ganga case and also the issue of revival of defunct rivers to improve environment and heritage.
Vasundhara first raised the issue of destruction of Heritage River Adi Ganga by Metro Rail expansion project and mobilized the citizen’s support. Shri Rebati Bhushan Bhattacharya, known for his long fight to revive Adi Ganga, discussed the latest position of his contempt case in High Court for cleaning of Adi Ganga. It may be recalled that Rebati Babu filed a writ petition in 1995 to clean Adi Ganga. In April 1998, High Court disposed the case ordering the State Government to clean Adi Ganga from Hastings to Garia in 18 months. Rupess 290 million has been given by Central Government for this work. But nothing has been done so far. Rebati Babu has therefore filed a contempt petition which is now pending.
Shri Subhas Dutta of Ganatantrik Nagarik Samit Howrah is already fighting more than twenty environmental cases. He filed a writ petition in Calcutta High Court challenging the Metro Rail project in January 2001. He spoke in details about the case and the verdict. Calcutta High Court has allowed the Metro Rail to continue work without any environmental clearance. It justified its action by citing Clause 11 of the Railways Act, 1989 which permits Railway administration to construct “upon, across, under or over any lands, ….any rivers, canals, brooks, streams or other waters”. It is in fact Clause 7 of the Railways Act, 1890 which was updated in 1989. As Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is an earlier act, High Court thought to give preference to Railways Act, 1989. Shri Subhas Dutta spoke eloquently to explain that the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, has been enacted as a commitment to the United Nations Stockholm Conference of 1972 which has been mentioned in the preamble of the Act. India later also was one of the signatories of agenda 21 of United Nations Biodiversity conference in 1992. So with this background Railways Act, 1989 should not get any preference. Subhas Dutta is planning to challenge the verdict in Supreme court. There was a live discussion on this topic.
Dr. Ashis Ghose, ex-Director Zoological Survey of India, Samar Bagchi, ex-Director Birla Science Museum took part in it.
Before Tea-Break, Vasundhara released its new publication on Medical Waste. Shri Raju Mukherjee, a community environmental organiser presented first copy of the book to Shri Mahadev Naskar, a medical waste collector with a long political background. Shri Mahadev Naskar spoke a few words on the hazards of his profession.
After Tea-Break, Shri Dhiraj Sen of Sonai Andolan presented a short but very specific history and legal situation about the lost Sonai River of North Twenty four Parganas. He stressed the need of support from environmental groups and persons to built up the campaign. Dr. Kalyan Bandyopandhyay, senior and eminent hydrologist, explained with sketches in the black board how pillars on the river affect the flow of the river and specially in case of a tidal river. He wondered how with 300 pillars, a shallow river with difficult tidal flow would be able to survive. Dr. Kalyan Rudra, geographer, spoke about the problems of interference with the rivers. Representatives of Utsa Manush, Nagarik Mancha, Disha, Swastha-O-Paribesh, Purba Kolkata Paribesh Sameekshan, Bigyan O Bigyankarmi, Sahay, Calcutta 36, Tollygunge Development Council, Kaladhawani and others were present.
Mazahar-ul-Hossain, Debaprasad Bhattacharya, Saswati Ghosh, Shukla Mitra, Gautam Sen and others helped in smooth functioning of the meeting.