This article will discuss “Compensatory Water Body” which is an important issue in West Bengal and as well as around the country (India). We have seen that many people without any permission converting the water bodies into different solid lands or into other forms which are totally illegal according to the different laws of the state. Any individual who wants to alter or convert any water bodies into other forms such as solid land then they should get permission from the competent authority to do so. When an individual gets permission to convert the water body into another form according to his interest then he or she is also asked by the competent authority to create a compensatory water body equal to the size or greater than the existing water body which he or she wants to convert into solid land or into other forms. This concept of compensatory water body was brought into force to safeguard the environment and nature. If we convert the natural water bodies without creating any compensatory water body then our nature and environment will be disturbed and there will be no proper balance of the eco-system and it will harm each and every life. To keep the balance of nature and environment we need to create compensatory water bodies if we convert any water body into solid land. There are different provisions mentioned under different Acts to protect the water bodies and the nature such provisions are as follows –
West Bengal Inland Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1993 contains section 17A which further provides“Bar to the conversion of water area etc. for other use.”
(1) (a) It is mentioned that no individual shall put any water area or water body including embankment measuring 5 cottahs or 0.035 hectares or more which has the capacity to be used as a fishery or any natural or artificially depressed land holding measuring the same as mentioned for embankment which retains water for a period of 6 months in a year, to such use, other than fishery and which may result in the abolition of the fishery.
b) No individual should fill up any water area including embankment or naturally or artificially depressed land holding as mentioned above to convert it into solid land for the construction of a building or for another purpose.
(9) (a) No water bodies should be put to use other than fishery as mentioned under clause (a) os sub-section (I).
(b) No water bodies should be filled up to convert it into solid land for the implementation of a development scheme by the department of the Central Government or State Government or public undertaking administrative control of the Government or any other authority except approval of the state government in the department of the fisheries.
(10) (a) The competent authority may ask any individual by a notice to restore the original condition of the water body which he or she converted to use it for another purpose within the specified time as mentioned under this law at his own expense.
(b) If that individual fails to comply with the notice then the competent authority will take the water body and will restore the original condition of the water body and all the cost to restore the water body will be taken from that individual.
West Bengal Land Reforms Rules, 1965 provides different provisions which are discussed below:
Section 5A defines“Manner of change of character, conversion or alteration in the mode of use of land held by raiyat”—(1) A raiyat who wants to change or convert or alter the use of land which is held by him shall make an application to the competent officer who deals with such matters in writing to perform the function of the collector under section 4C and in form 1A and it should be attached with necessary documents.
(2) The application which is made under sub-rule (1) relates to permission for change or conversion or alteration of land which has water body also then such application should be attached with an affidavit in form1B for the creation of compensatory water body which may be equal or greater than such water body.
“(9) In this type of cases, the Block Land and Land Reforms officer are also asked to make an inquiry or check that the person has possession and transferable right over the land which is specified to create compensatory water body.
“(11) The Block Land and Land Reforms Officer or the Sub-divisional Land and Land Reforms Officer or the District Land and Land Reforms Officer should after considering the facts and providing the applicant and any other person an opportunity of being heard in writing can reject the application or accept the application for the conversion and also provides 90 days time to create compensatory water body from the date of issue of the order for such conversion.
“(12) It says that applicant should submit the documents which state that he or she has created water body and these documents should be submitted within 15 days after the expiry of the 90 days as mentioned above and if fails to do so then the competent authority will order to restore the original condition of the water body which he has converted.
“(13) If the applicant fails to restore the water body then the officer or competent authority will take the cost of restoration of the water body and if he fails to pay the cost of the water body then the District Land and Land Reforms Officer may realise the cost as a public demand in accordance with the provisions of the “Bengal Public Demands Recovery Act, 1913 (Bengal Act No. 3 of 1913)”.
East Calcutta Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act 2006:
The West Bengal government has introduced and gave effect to the East Calcutta Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act 2006 in the year 2006. This Act of 2006 provides sections 10(4) and 10(5) which further gives power to the authorities to give permission to any person to fill up any water body if that person or individual creates or digs another water body (Compensatory Water Body) same as the water body to be filled up or greater than that water body. This is done to keep the ecological and environmental surroundings undisturbed and to keep the balance of nature.
Government officials, environment and legal experts agree that the act provides sections or provisions which allow any person to fill up any water body and create another water body against the water body to be filled up and this is considered as illegal as it contradicts Calcutta High Court order of 1992.
Necessary of a compensatory water body or water body:
It is necessary to have compensatory water body if anyone fills up any natural body to create any structures or something else. These water bodies keep nature balanced ecologically and environmentally. These water bodies along with its surrounding contribute to local climate, harbour aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity, particularly of birds, and functions as local drainage basins. It also feeds the agriculture and refreshes the groundwater table and so on.
“Tapas Kumar Ghosh & Ors vs Asish Dey &Ors. on 13 June 2018Calcutta High Court (Appellate Side)”
The case says that a party has filled up a water body and built shop rooms on that land. The report discussed in the case suggests the DL & LRO to advise the parties to create a compensatory water body within a period of a year from the date of making the application.
“Asit Saha vs The State Of West Bengal & Ors on 18 April 2019Calcutta High Court (Appellate Side)”
“Considering the respective stand taken by the parties, we are of the view that the instant writ petition can be disposed of with a direction upon the Competent Authority under the West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act, 1984, to consider as to whether the bar to convert the pond-in-question under section 17A of the said Act of 1984, will apply in the facts of the instant case or not. The Competent Authority shall decide this matter in accordance with the law, preferably within a period of six weeks, but not later than eight weeks from the date of communication of a photostat certified copy of this order. The decision of the Competent Authority, needless to say, shall be supported with cogent and justifiable reasons.”
The above case says that permission to fill up a part of a pond was given by the Competent Authority on the condition that they should create another water body as the same size or of the greater size of the water body which has to be filled up by them. They also check that section 17A of the above-mentioned Act will apply or not in this case.
We have discussed all the necessary and relevant topics relating to Compensatory Water Body along with case laws to make you understand the concept clearly. There are many disputes arising day by day relating to this topic. It is our duty to protect our environment and nature. There are many people in different parts of the country who think that they can do what they like but one must remember that everyone is equal before the law. It is better to follow the rules and regulations laid down under different Acts relating to Compensatory Water Bodies. Anyone wants to convert any water body, they should approach the proper or competent authority to get their purpose fulfilled. It is also better to consult with an expert to solve these types of problems.