What if' What if it rains like Mumbai or if the earth rumbles like Bhuj'
Groping for a realistic shield against natural calamities, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has initiated a mega plan to make the city safer.
Target one: drainage and sewerage.
'If there is 900 mm of rain in Calcutta, it will spell serious trouble for us. There is no denying that,' said chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb.
Enter, a high-powered committee to take long-term action on this problem point.
Comprising engineers from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority and the state drainage department, the team will oversee the overhaul of the city's drainage system. 'Structural changes would, of course, be necessary, because we are thinking of long-term plans,' said Deb.
Most of the brick sewer network was laid in the pre-Independence days, and on many stretches, it needs a complete overhaul. 'The sooner this is done, the better it is for the overall drainage system of Calcutta,' said a civic official.
And what if an earthquake hits the city before floods' To tackle any potential earthquake threat, the government and the CMC are taking up an initiative to make buildings in the city 'more sturdy and strong', according to officials.
Calcutta lies in segment III of the seismic zones, a 'moderate damage risk zone'. The cause of concern: it lies close to segment IV, a 'high damage risk zone'.
And the action begins on Saturday, with the CMC holding a four-day training programme for city masons to teach them the technique of 'seismic safe constructions'.
This is part of the National Urban Earthquake Vulnerability Reduction Programme, for which the Centre is offering Rs 3 lakh.
Five CMC engineers and 15 masons will be offered training in the city for 'seismic safe construction technique' under the guidance of Sekhar Datta of Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur.
'The trained engineers and masons can then act as resource persons to impart training to other masons,' says a civic official.
The first batch can, thus, help create a chain of engineers and masons who know how to build homes that would be safer during earthquakes.
According to the official, the masons would be made aware of the details of concrete piling and casting and special binding techniques that can make buildings safe in case of earthquakes within predictable limit.
The plans are long-term, said officials, but admitted that immediate ground-level activity was a must in order to start the process of change.
'The aim, after all, is to make Calcutta a safer and better city to live in. And the faster we all buckle down to the task, the better,' concluded a Writers' Buildings official.