Kolkata, Feb 13 (PTI) West Bengal Environment minister Suvendu Adhikary Wednesday said saving wetlands was the topmost priority of the state government.

He said 12,500 hectares of wetlands was protected in recent times by the state government.

“Our team keeps regular tab on existing wetlands as part of the mission to save water bodies and we take the help of police in this drive,” Adhikary told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organised by West Bengal Bio-diversity Board.

He said two-three constructions on wetlands had been raged down in recent months in the city and surrounding areas.

To a question about the fate of a proposed six-km flyover project over part of East Kolkata Wetlands, which was opposed by a section of environmentalists, Adhikary said “the new committee on wetlands, with me as the Chairman, will take up the issue at our first meeting very soon.” “One thing is sure, we will not do anything which will cause any damage to our water bodies,” he said.

The minister said the department has already formed 432 block management committees (BMC) across the state where the members will campaign in their respective areas to save wetlands and the target was forming 467 BMCs.

Asked about the rise in air pollution in the city, the minister said fluctuation of air quality index during winter has been a typical phenomenon for past 25 years “and there is no need to trigger the alarm button.”

He said while Particulate Matter 10 and Particulate Matter 2.5 fluctuated over alarming level at certain times in this season, the NO2 and SO2 levels were “much lower but not certainly within permissible limits always.” “This can be fought at certain levels including extensive tree plantation apart from stopping over 15 year old vehicles from entering city and taking certain measures during construction activities which we have already undertaken,” he said.

The minister said the department will encourage schools to paint pictures of bio-diversity on their walls and 10 schools have already responded to the initiative.

“We will also encourage forming bio-diversity clubs at schools and the state bio-diversity board will provide all logistics and infrastructural support in this regard,” he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.