Need to protect Sunderbans, eco-tourism hub can wait, say environmentalists

To stop the degradation of Sunderbans, green crusader Subhas Datta has submitted a report to the National Green Tribunal.

Written by Arshad Ali | Kolkata | Published:February 12, 2015 12:53 am

Within a fortnight of Principal Secretary (Tourism) Ajit Ranjan Bardhan announcing that Rs 185 crore will be invested by both state and private players to boost the tourism potential of Sunderbans, environmentalists have picked up holes in the idea.

To stop the degradation of Sunderbans, green crusader Subhas Datta has submitted a report to the National Green Tribunal.

In the 20-page report (accessed by The Indian Express), Datta has said that there was no master plan to conserve Sunderbans. “Several piecemeal, shortterm, unplanned and unwarranted developmental activities have been carried out by the Sundarban Development Authority, Sundarban Development Board and others merely for political or financial gains,” the report has stated.

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On Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s recent visit to the Sunderbans with a team of industrialists to turn it into an eco-tourism hub, the report said: “…Areas outside the declared forest region are also ‘critically vulnerable coastal areas’ falling under CRZ-1 (Coastal Regulation Zone-I) where permission cannot be given for developmental activities like tourism.”

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Datta said Sunderban means “beautiful forest” and if the current trend continues, it will soon turn into a “beautiful city”. “The geography of the place is changing fast and will change even faster if such projects are announced… technocrats and bureaucrats will be in a hurry to approve schemes without proper probe,” he added.

Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) University president Dr S D Gupta said health initiatives for the Sunderbans region should be high on the priority list of the state government. A research conducted by the university shows that in the Sunderbans, around 85 per cent of ailing children are treated by rural medical practitioners (RMPs) who don’t have any formal training.

“Around 55 per cent of children are born at home. Among these, five per cent of the births are assisted by qualified professionals. The state should put up healthcare facilities, train RMPs and campaign to generate awareness among people to avail available health facilities,” he said.

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