VIVEK KUMAR, district magistrate of Howrah, met readers of The Telegraph at his bungalow on 6, Rishi Bankim Sarani. Participants included Sanjay Jaiswal, Ravi Bothra, Sailesh Jaiswal, Sanjay Patwari, Sanjiv Kumar Baid, Rajesh Dugar, Ram Avtar Mundhra, Md. Monir Khan and Susant Saraf
Sanjay Jaiswal: Indiscriminate use of polythene bags is ruining the drainage system in Howrah.
The Pollution Control Board has ordered that polythene bags should not be less than 20 microns thick. Accordingly, the district administration has issued a notification in Bengali to the municipalities. In this regard, the Howrah Chamber of Commerce took a very commendable step. To educate people on the ill-effects of polythene bags, Bally municipality organises regular seminars. I have also issued appeals to stop the use of polythene bags. But, people continue to use these bags because they come cheap.
Ravi Bothra: I live in Watkins Lane. We don’t have a park or any greenery around. Do you plan to plant trees in Howrah'
Roughly, 10-12 per cent of a town should be reserved for greenery. But Howrah is not a planned city. Moreover, every town should have 18 per cent road space for traffic but Howrah has only 3.5 per cent. On the other hand, the volume of traffic is increasing by seven per cent per annum. So, we have no space for a plantation drive. An organisation came forward to plant trees close to Howrah station, but within three days, all the saplings were crushed by lorries. Residents want parks but promoters are not ready to spare an inch. In addition, residents of some areas are responsible for filling up ponds. They dump waste into the ponds without bothering about the damage to the waterbody. In this way, 70 per cent of Howrah’s 100 waterbodies were filled up. We planted some greenery near Howrah station, but the high level of pollution killed the grass and saplings.
Ravi Bothra: Are there any plans to wash Howrah’s streets'
Washing of roads is a costly affair. In Howrah, the tax collection is low. To start any new project, we need to generate funds first.
Sanjay Patwari: The administration has stopped rickshaws from plying in Howrah from 8 am to 12 noon and again, from 4 pm to 8 pm. This is inconveniencing short-distance travellers.
The traffic problem gets top priority in Howrah. To regulate traffic, we held meetings with political parties and also sought popular opinion. Accordingly, we reached an agreement by which we clamped down on about 15,000 unlicensed rickshaws. We have about 12,000 licensed rickshaws in the town, and if their movement is not restricted, the entire traffic system will be jeopardised. To help commuters, we are planning to introduce a shuttle bus service.
Sanjiv Kumar Baid: Howrah was the ‘Sheffield of the East’. What is the present position'
For the development of industry, a number of infrastructural facilities are required. You will be glad to know that we plan to spend Rs 1,200 crore on the 120-km-long National Highway No. 6 by 2003. Also, a 132-kv, extra-high-voltage power plant with seven sub-stations is on the anvil. Once completed, these plants will provide power to at least 500 small industries. We plan to improve telecommunication facilities and work is in progress on that.
Of course, here industry needs to be upgraded technically. If everything proceeds smoothly in the next three years, there will be a major boost for industry.
We have plans for relocating the foundry industry to arrest pollution. There is a project for an industrial estate in Uluberia. We are also planning to establish a non-pollutant industry in Howrah.
Sailesh Jaiswal: In Domjur, we had purchased 14 bighas to set up an industry. But later, the plot was taken over by the government and some payments were made to the villagers. Will you please shed light on this'
If you have all the papers, please meet me some time so that the matter can be set right.
Sanjiv Kumar Baid: On Foreshore Road, cars flashing red lights frequently violate traffic rules. Is there no check on them'
I myself and my officers do not violate traffic rules. As far as I know, the superintendent of police and the zilla sabhadhipati are law-abiding citizens. However, if you can cite specific cases, I can take action.