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Streets flooded, taps dry with pipe breach

It was water, water everywhere and nowhere to go. Chaos reigned supreme south of Park Street after the entire stretch of Minto Park-AJC Bose Road-Lansdowne-Beckbagan swam under knee-deep water on Monday morning, the first day of the Madhyamik examinations, forcing the police to make it out of bounds for vehicular traffic.

This happened after workers executing piling work for the flyover, being constructed by the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) on AJC Bose Road, burst the water mains at Beckbagan on Sunday.

Thousands of examinees and commuters had a trying time reaching their destinations. Schools like La Martiniere, Pratt Memorial, St James’, Diocesan and Ballygunge Government, located on this stretch, became inaccessible for students.

As if that was not bad enough, there was severe water shortage and the sun gave the first hint of summer’s arrival.

It began on Sunday morning, when HRBC work on the flyover breached a 60-inch-diameter water-supplying pipe, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) second-largest supply-line, at Beckbagan. The pipe — built to carry 3.5 million gallons of water every hour — gave way, sending Calcutta hurtling towards Monday’s chaos.

A large expanse of Beckbagan and its surrounding areas, including Lower Circular Road, Ballygunge Circular Road and Gurusaday Road, became flooded from Sunday itself, as over 10 million gallons of filtered water gushed out.

More than 200,000 households — first in south Calcutta, and then in the north as well — went without water as the CMC was trying, unsuccessfully, to plug the breach more than 24 hours after it occurred.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, accompanied by members of his council Rajib Deb (drainage and sewage) and Sovon Chatterjee (water), confronted HRBC vice-chairman A.K. Pal on the scene of the breach around 2 am.

“I was so angry I would have done something worse had the others not restrained me,” Mukherjee said on Monday.

Mukherjee’s complaint with municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya — followed by a decision to file an FIR — was countered by Pal, who said the CMC’s failure to provide a map of the underground utility services was to blame for the breach.

While this slanging match between bigwigs continued, it was the young boys and girls, and their guardians trying in vain to reach exam venues, who suffered. Jittery policemen directed traffic every which way in the Lower Circular Road area.

South-bound buses that were to take the Lower Circular Road route were diverted through S.N. Banerjee Road and CIT Road, private vehicles were shown the Park Street channel and north-bound vehicles were diverted through CIT Road.

Drivers stayed away from the snarl zone. And so did the cars bringing hundreds of examinees to venues such as La Martiniere, St John’s Diocesan, St James’, Pratt Memorial and Hartley’s.

With the artery to south Calcutta homes from the Tala-Palta network breached, Ballygunge, Dhakuria, Bhowanipore, Alipore, Gopalnagar, Chetla, Rashbehari Avenue, Gol Park and Gariahat went without water.

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