In yet another blow to the Sundarbans, the government has decided to approve all industrial structures currently operating in the Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) of the mangrove forest, essentially legalising more than 150 illegal structures. Additionally, the National Environment Committee also decided to relax and change some rules and policies in order to allow new potentially risky industries to run in the ECA.
These decisions failed to live up to the spirit of the recent UNESCO recommendations, including one not to build any big and large structure in the Sundarbans area, which the government had agreed to comply with.
Newspapers in the recent past have reported that nearly 300 groups, mostly from powerful quarters, had bought 10 thousand acres of land near the Sundarbans to build various types of industries. Based on this report, the prime minister's office reportedly sought to know more about these projects. However, instead of taking any stern actions to remove those illegal structures, the government moved to legalise them after approving additional 36 industrial projects in the meantime. This move will attract further linkage industries and traffic to the area, which will only serve to increase the already threatened forest.
We are aghast at this decision, which is nothing short of an existential threat to the Sundarbans' safety—something that is already under considerable threat due to the construction of the Rampal power plant. We urge the government to re-examine these decisions, which could prove lethal to our precious Sundarbans. If the government truly intends to stand by its commitment to protect the forest, it has no other option to prove it.