The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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From the heart, cry for breather
- Rajarhat, Salt Lake answer cardiac doctors’ call for footpath, parks

• Over 250 heart patients report daily at the five major state-run city hospitals

• Over 1,250 heart patients are exposed to pollution from vehicles every day on their way to hospital

• Government plans to renovate at least 30 parks/footpaths in the initial stage in city and Salt Lake

• Doctors advocate safe footpaths and cyclepaths

• Government advocates coordination between beautification/renovation project agencies

Want more car space' Well, fell the trees and do away with the footpaths.

That just about sums up the street-widening saga from CIT Road to Park Circus to Chetla.

But there’s hope yet, in the form of cardiologists and pollution control board officials lobbying for wider footpaths, larger parks, more trees and cleaner air.

Bowing to pressure — especially from the Cardiological Society of India (CSI) — the state government is planning to save what remains of Calcutta’s rapidly-disappearing greens and develop the fringe areas as eco-friendly zones.

“We have decided to develop the Rajarhat new township as an eco-friendly zone, along with Salt Lake. We will also actively discuss with various implementing agencies how to improve Calcutta’s environment,” state environment minister Manab Mukherjee told Metro on Thursday.

The decision comes in the wake of the CSI raising the issue of the sorry state of footpaths and parks in Calcutta at many a public fora.

“We have been clamouring for more open spaces for citizens, especially cardiac patients, for whom a morning walk in an open space is essential. Unfortunately, options for Calcuttans are now severely limited,” said CSI secretary Partha Sarathi Banerjee.

Most city hospitals are now urging heart patients to strive for a complete lifestyle modification, which involves regular morning walks, cycling and strolls in parks.

“Unfortunately, most of them come back complaining of not just vanishing parks but even the growing lack of footpaths. With an ever-increasing number of heart patients and also those with lung disorders, there is a crying need for more open spaces to encourage people to walk,” said cardiac surgeon Ajay Kaul.

About 250 patients with heart ailments throng the five major state-run hospitals in the city every day, of whom 100 are new cases, while the others come in for follow-ups. “Almost all these patients are advised mandatory physical exercise in the form of morning walks. Most do not have a park near their home,” said cardiologist Ashok Kar.

The authorities are pinning their hopes on Salt Lake as the new eco-friendly zone for morning walkers. Tapan Talukdar, chairman-in-council, Bidhannagar Municipality, confirmed that renovation plans have been chalked out for footpaths and parks, especially for the ailing and aged.

“New footpaths will be constructed, making it convenient for walkers,” said Talukdar.

“We are urging block committees and private entrepreneurs to take up the task of beautifying and renovating the parks with us. Some of the parks have already been renovated by such joint ventures,” he added.

The pollution control board, meanwhile, has sent a report to the government highlighting the need to plant more trees and save Calcutta’s remaining patches of green.

“Because of the high levels of vehicular pollution, pedestrians in Calcutta run the constant risk of diseases. We have urged the government to take up suitable measures to control pollution and save the greenery,” said Shyamal Sarkar, member-secretary, pollution control board.

Bikash Basu, chief engineer with the board, stressed that, pockets like Salt Lake and Rajarhat must give Calcutta a much-needed breather.

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