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Govt to tap Europe for drinking-water loan

Calcutta, May 24: The government will approach the European Commission for a loan to tackle the drinking water problem and improve sewerage and waste-water sanitation in the municipal corporations of Howrah, Asansol, Durgapur and Siliguri.

Municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya today said the four corporations had been working with the regions of Lombardia in Italy and Catalunya in Spain for the past one year to improve drinking water supply and sewerage and develop waste-water sanitation.

The minister hinted that legislation may be brought about to prevent the misuse of water. “One of the aspects that emerged out of this year-long exercise…is that water is extremely valuable and its misuse has to be stopped. So, as in their country (Italy), legislation may have to be worked out on this score,” he said.

The European Commission-sponsored project charted out the possible legislation to prevent the misuse of water and waste-water in the four corporation areas, according to the minister. “By July, we will draw up a final project report on ways to develop water supply and sanitation in the four towns. Then we will approach the European Commission or the World Bank for funds,” he said.

G. Bordoni, a representative of Lombardia’s ministry of public utility, said the Italian government could send a recommendation for the loan to the European Commission after the project reached the implementation stage. “There will not be any pre-condition attached to such loan if it is granted,” he said.

Bhattacharya, who inaugurated a seminar on European and Indian Cooperation for Sewerage and Water Sanitation Improvement in Bengal here today, said the government was examining a proposal from the Lombardia authorities to extend such cooperation and exchange programmes to other urban local bodies. A. Pinna, consul general of Italy in Calcutta, Raffaello Benetti, Asian operations manager of Promos, a body of the Milan Chamber of Commerce, and Bordini were among those who attended the seminar.

Bhattacharya also said the Italian government is ready to fund a major portion of a Rs 125-crore project for solid-waste management in 14 towns and drinking-water supply in 13 towns across the state.

“The Italian government is ready to provide about Rs 100 crore to us, but it has to be routed through the Centre. The earlier National Democratic Alliance government had not given the final nod. I will visit Delhi in July to pursue the matter with the new government,” he said.

The development of infrastructure at Howrah, Durgapur, Asansol and Siliguri is important as these towns are growing fast, pointed out the minister.

“Siliguri, due to its strategic location and proximity to neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China, is one of the most important urban agglomerations in the country and is often described as the gateway to the northeast,” he said. To cope with the fast growth, changing needs and aspirations of the people in these towns, and to facilitate rapid development of communication facilities, external assistance for infrastructural development is necessary,” he said.

Trade team meets CM

The Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce will organise a seminar on the Emerging Economy of West Bengal here on June 4.

“Our endeavour is to involve the chambers in more such events, where they can meet and discuss business opportunities,” said Promos manager Raffaello Benetti, who led a team to meet the chief minister this evening to discuss cooperation in the jewellery, leather and food processing sectors.

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