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Key curb on mega estate
- Law flout alleged, builders deny

South City, the largest real estate project in Calcutta, has been barred from handing over keys to its 1,600 flats.

A West Bengal Pollution Control Board order, dated February 20, 2006, says: 'We' direct the South City Project that without prior permission of the state board, they should not hand over the flats to anyone till such matter is finally disposed of.'

The matter in question involves the alleged filling up of waterbodies in and around the Prince Anwar Shah Road project site and violation of some other green norms.

The board has also asked CESC 'not to give any electric connection to any consumer' in South City till the issue is resolved.

The giant project, spread over 31.14 acres and boasting four tall towers, has been tripped by four alleged environmental follies ' filling up of Bikramgarh Jheel bordering the site, filling up a pond at the construction site without creating a bigger one (as mandated by the board), bypassing a central government notification for environment clearance, and continuously creating air and noise pollution.

'The order has been made on some frivolous complaints received by the state board from the surrounding areas. We invite the authorities to scrutinise the necessary papers and carry out the necessary inspection to satisfy themselves on the status,' said South City director Pradeep Sureka, before countering each allegation .

Basundhara Foundation, a local green watchdog, had in early January complained to the board how South City had 'encroached on a large section' of Bikramgarh Jheel. 'The Jheel is one of the largest waterbodies in south Calcutta and any effort to fill it will jeopardise the environment in the area,' said Mohit Roy of Basundhara.

The order mentions: 'On receipt of the complaint, (the) state board inspected the site in details and it is observed that there is an attempt to fill up the waterbody'.

The Jheel apart, the 'filling up a pond of 1.31 acres at the construction site without creating the mandatory compensatory one (of 1.41 acres)' has also come under the scanner. The developers argue that the waterbody has not been filled yet and the bigger one will be created in due course.

Bypassing central government notification is the third major allegation.

A ministry of environment and forests notification dated July 7, 2004, stated that any mega construction project must obtain central clearance, that includes a public hearing. The gazette stated that 'new construction' where work has not come up to the plinth level (by July 7, 2004), shall require clearance under this notification'.

South City officials claim they obtained the no-objection certificate from the state pollution control board on November 7, 2003, before the central stipulation came into force. But South City's revised plan was sanctioned by the CMC on March 16, 2005.

Finally, complaints against the project have poured in about work going on through the night, causing continuous air and noise pollution. 'The work is patently invasive, polluting and disturbing to the neighbourhood,' former CPM parliamentarian from Jadavpur Malini Bhattacharya has said in a written complaint to environment minister Manab Mukherjee.

South City officials say an IIT-BESU team has given the project a clean decibel chit.

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