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Green panel frown at heritage site

For the first time in its history, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board has taken an initiative to protect a heritage structure ' the Natmandir of Sovabazar Rajbati.

The Natmandir is currently being misused for loading and unloading of LPG cylinders and as a garage.

On August 3, the board issued an order asking the Natmandir owners, Nandita Banerjee and her son Abir, to stop loading and unloading of cylinders at 33/R/1A, and 33/R/1/B, Raja Nabakrishna Street, under Shyampukur police station. The board also advised them not to use the premises for commercial purposes.

The directive was on the basis of a complaint by former Calcutta mayor Kamal Basu, who is also president of Sutanuti Parishad, an NGO engaged in protecting heritage structures in the city.

Basu told Metro on Tuesday that the Parishad had received several complaints to the effect that the owners of the Natmandir had been using the premises for loading and unloading of LPG cylinders. At night, the premises are used as a car-parking zone, the complainants further alleged.

'We could not sit idle and so, we lodged an official complaint with the pollution control board to protect the heritage structure from any sort of damage,' Basu said.

Following the complaint, the board had summoned the owners on May 4. 'Nandita Banerjee failed to appear at the hearing, while Abir could not produce the permission necessary for loading and unloading of LPG cylinders,' stated a senior board official.

An inspection was carried out at the site by the board on June 3. It was found that loading and unloading of cylinders was being conducted without any permit. The owners were again asked to appear before the board on July 20. This time, no one turned up. The August 3 order followed.

Senior law officer of the pollution control board Biswajit Mukherjee said on Tuesday that Indian Oil Corporation has been asked to take necessary steps against the unauthorised loading and unloading of LPG cylinders at the heritage structure.

Indian Oil Corporation's deputy general manager (LPG) A.C. Dey said the board's request had been received. Officials were looking into the complaints, he added.

'We have specifically asked dealers to strictly follow the rules and regulations laid down by us in handling LPG cylinders. If any dealer is found to have flouted the regulations, we will take action against him and if necessary, cancel his dealership,' Dey asserted.

When contacted, Nandita said she had been using the premises to park vehicles for the past 15 years. 'I have the necessary papers to operate a garage at the site. I don't know how the pollution control board can ask me to discontinue a business on my own property,' she wondered.

Nandita, however, could not explain why she violated the board's orders.

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