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Basu gets building update: block to go

On Tuesday, he flagged it off. On Thursday, he found it slapped with a stopwork notice by the environment ministry. On Saturday, he summoned the environment minister to his residence to find out why the project had been stalled. And on Monday, he was happy to learn from the environment minister, again, that the roadblocks to the construction of the city’s largest and most expensive condominium were being cleared.

A week after former chief minister Jyoti Basu formally launched a joint-venture project between the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Bengal Silver Spring Project Ltd, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, the government was busy ensuring that he was kept posted about the project.

Environment minister Manab Mukherjee was back at Basu’s Salt Lake residence on Monday to apprise him of the “latest situation” in the ‘to-stall-or-not-to-stall’ Silver Spring saga. “Manab (Mukherjee) met me and said he was satisfied after examining the papers submitted by promoters of the project,” Basu told Metro on Monday.

Basu was happy to learn that work on the project would resume shortly. “The environment ministry, which had earlier stopped it, has realised that the project will be beneficial for the people of Calcutta,” Basu added.

Mukherjee had earlier slammed the brakes on Silver Spring for allegedly having filled up waterbodies, as shown by pictures taken by an Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) satellite. This sparked a controversy within government circles. The state leadership was particularly upset with the way the environment minister had slapped the notice on Silver Spring while chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was away in Italy.

Bhattacharjee, on his return to Writers’ Buildings on Monday, said: “I spoke to Manab (Mukherjee). Silver Spring will have to obtain a no-objection certificate from the Pollution Control Board after accepting all the environmental conditions.”

State fisheries and aquaculture minister Kiranmoy Nanda, meanwhile, said: “I have checked the area map from the Corporation and also seen the plan of Silver Spring. Both show land and waterbodies in clearly demarcated areas.” The minister, however, has asked his department to submit a report after finding out whether the waterbodies in the area have, indeed, been filled up.

Nanda said he was not in a position to stop construction, but could take legal action. “As per the Inland Fisheries Act 1984, if a waterbody of five cottahs or more is filled, it could result in a penalty of Rs 2 lakh and two years of imprisonment, besides restoring the waterbody to its original state,” said the minister under whose purview waterbodies fall. Nanda said the rule could be relaxed in the case of development work, like building hospitals, roads, water reservoirs and the like.

The Bengal Silver Spring Project Ltd authorities had earlier blamed the impasse on “a communication gap”. They insist that no waterbody has been filled and have assured Mukherjee that they will obtain the no-objection certificate from the pollution control authorities.

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