The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Civic brakes on progress path

The state transport department is not alone in slowing down the city’s drive towards a cleaner future, via the Bharat Stage-II (BS-II) route. It has an able ally in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), which — say members of the committee assigned the task of suggesting remedies to clean up the Calcutta air — is responsible for several speed-breakers.

Experts say it is as important to maintain the city’s roads as it is to maintain the engines of cars that are driven on them, in order to get even close to the BS-II standards set for the metros. But the CMC has done precious little to take Calcutta closer to Delhi or Bangalore, with respect to roads.

The state of the streets, said some members of the 10-man committee set up by the government on a Calcutta High Court prod, should be such that cars can maintain a steady speed of around 40 kph to optimise consumption of fuel and ensure full combustion to minimise pollution. For that, several measures must be taken.

“These are the essentials if you want to conform with BS-II norms,” said committee member and former public vehicles department (PVD) director T.V. Venkataraman. “Sadly, just like the state government, the CMC does not seem to have taken its responsibilities very seriously.”

Other recommendations given to the CMC include:

   §Control indiscriminate digging of roads and stop dumping the debris on the road

   §Free all thoroughfares of encroachment

   §Draw up a plan to wash at least some of the important streets

   §Encourage plantation of trees with broad leaves

   §Ban hot-mix plants, tar-boilers and open chullahs on roads

“Except the on-off drives against hawkers and other encroachers who keep coming back, we have never seen even one of our recommendations being acted upon,” observed another committee member and Central Pollution Control Board (eastern region) director B.R. Naidu. “From potholed roads to the indiscriminate digging of roads, nothing has changed.”

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee retorted: “We are conscious of our duties but how is it possible to fulfil them if the government does not provide us with the funds' We need more flyovers, underpasses and broader roads and all of them are the state government’s responsibility.”

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