No place for green agenda in Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections

The group lays down set of 15 environment-related demands; urges poll commission to pass directives for maintaining green norms

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Wednesday 15 December 2021
Green activists raise flag of 'amra nojor rakhchi' (we are keeping a watch) in Kolkata, targeting green violations in the city. Photo: Jayanta Basu
Green activists raise flag of 'amra nojor rakhchi' (we are keeping a watch) in Kolkata, targeting green violations in the city. Photo: Jayanta Basu Green activists raise flag of 'amra nojor rakhchi' (we are keeping a watch) in Kolkata, targeting green violations in the city. Photo: Jayanta Basu

No political party has given due importance to key green issues impacting Kolkata in their manifestos, Sabuj Mancha, platform for environmentally conscious organisations and individuals across West Bengal, pointed out ahead of the civic polls due December 19, 2021. 

It urged the state election commission to pass appropriate directives to parties as well as candidates for maintaining green norms during campaign and electioneering.

It also laid down a set of 15 environment-related demands.

Naba Dutta, secretary, Sabuj Mancha, claimed: “We have requested the commission to pass appropriate order regarding the cleaning of campaign waste, especially plastic, once the election is over. This includes keeping noise in check during campaigning, ensuring biomedical waste generated is properly disposed of, and maintaining the health of the trees.”

Nilanjan Sandilya, secretary of the commission said “they have received the communiqué and have initiated action.”

“As a matter of fact, we have already passed an order asking political parties and candidates to clean up plastic waste generated immediately after the election,” he added.

The official told Down to Earth they have made elaborate arrangements to collect medical waste generated during voting.

“The situation is extremely frustrating and we will try to meet the next mayor to impress upon the need to undertake environment-centric development,” said Dulal Bose, president, Sabuj Mancha.

“Once back in power, we will be happy to meet the green lobby. Maintaining the environment will be the top-most priority for the next board,” said Firhad Hakim, mayor in the last board.

Key environment issues ignored

None of the political parties have considered the holistic improvement of the environment, said activist Sasanka Dev.

“Even key issues like air pollution, noise pollution and ever-increasing climatic impacts on the city have been ignored,” he said.

An analysis of the manifestos revealed interesting indicators.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, currently the major opposition to ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, vouched for a ‘6s governance model’ if they are elected to power.

“The 6s, in Bengali language, includes Swasthya (health), Swaccha (clean and transparent), Sikkhito (educated), Surokkhito (safe), Sangiskritik (cultural) and Sobar (for all). But it missed out an important S — Sobuj (green),” said Naba Dutta.

Dutta pointed out that Behala, in the south-west fringe of the city, is an ideal example of what poor city planning can do. A greater portion of the area has to withstand waterlogging for weeks when there is a heavy downpour.

The Trinamool Congress was also criticized by the platform for flagging adhoc steps such as organising 200 more pumps to address waterlogging, or committing to solve drinking water supply in Tollygunge and Jadavpur areas, without a comprehensive plan.

“There is no denying that pumps are important to suck out logged water, considering the city’s saucer-like topography. Installation of pumps only, however, will not solve the problem unless the civic body cleans up the unauthorised encroachments within the outfall drains and canals, and undertake de-silting and appropriate maintenance,” said Arunabha Majumdar, vice-president, Sabuj Mancha.

The Left Front, in its manifesto, talked about protecting East Kolkata Wetlands or making a green city but did not back the commitment with a concrete plan.         

“It’s bizarre that no political party or group has mentioned air pollution in their manifesto; one of the biggest current day urban problems,” stated Subhas Datta, an environment activist who has filed a number of court cases regarding controlling air pollution in the city. 

 “See the contradiction: One one side, the Trinamool government is talking about introducing electrical vehicles in the city to combat air pollution; on the other, its manifesto talks about setting up 500 air-conditioned bus stoppages, which is not only completely unwarranted but will only increase the pollution load,” added the activist.

Key green issues flagged

Sabuj Mancha, on Tuesday, flagged key environmental issues for various political parties and candidates in the election fray.

The demands are:

  • Pursue environment-attested city planning
  • Minimise air pollution from vehicles, construction and industries
  • Enforce noise norms for crackers, DJ and loudspeaker
  • Ensure quality drinking water; keep data in public domain
  • Incentivise rainwater harvesting and solar
  • Map and maintain water bodies within city
  • Remove encroachment in East Calcutta Wetlands — the kidney and kitchen of city
  • Free encroachment and restore Adi Ganga; other drainage canals to save Behala and other areas from water logging
  • Make a comprehensive climate plan for city
  • Stop tree felling; start tree planting of proper species
  • Make Rabindra Sarobar, Subhas Sarobar and parks encroachment free
  • Manage medical, construction and plastic waste as per norms
  • Direct to keep building materials properly during construction
  • Stop burning of waste in the open
  • Bring back trams as an effective transport mode

“We appeal to voters to demand green commitments from the candidates,” said Saswati Sen of World Wide Fund for Nature, India.

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