| Students tend to the flowers at the Howrah college. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
The recently-introduced compulsory course in environmental science at the under-graduate level has flowered in at least one college under Calcutta University — at Howrah’s Narasingha Dutta College. Till a year ago, the vacant patches on the college campus, spanning nine bighas in central Howrah’s congested and polluted Belilious Road, housed heaps of filth and garbage.
Today, gone are the mounds of stinking waste. The plots are now well-fenced enclosures of flower-beds, each with its own variety of flora in full bloom. The 6,000-odd students — in three shifts every day— work overtime to turn their institution a glorious green.
“We take gardening seriously. Experts guide us regularly, with tips on how the flowers can flourish. For example, most of my classmates are now aware of the kind of soil required for a particular species, the manure it needs, cultivation patterns and so on,” said Tuhin Chakraborty, third-year student. A glance down the sprawling campus proves him true. One bed has rows of dahlias, in vibrant colours, all in full bloom. Another is embellished exclusively with roses.
“Since our college is located in an industrial belt and there is hardly any greenery around, we drew up a plan to turn our campus grounds into gardens,” said vice-principal Sailendranath Ganguly. But the brain behind the blossoms is Goutam Ray, who teaches history in the college.
“When I joined in 2001, I was told about the garden plan. It matched the syllabus of the new course,” said Ray. In fact, according to Ray, the college may well be the first in the city to set up a bio-park of its own soon.
“We have already earmarked and fenced a huge plot on the eastern corner of the campus for the bio-park, where students of our botany department will rear species of plants they require for experiments,” said Ray. This apart, the students have cleaned up a huge pond on the campus.
The authorities are determined to deal sternly with any disobedience of rules regarding maintenance of the gardens. In fact, the college has abolished all punitive measures for errant students. “If caught bunking class or in any kind of mischief, we ‘punish’ the student by ordering him or her to buy a kg of fertiliser for the gardens or water the plants,” said the vice-principal.
As for the funds needed for maintenance of the gardens, the college has set up a corpus with a one-time contribution of Rs 5 per student, charged at the time of taking admission to the college.