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Deadline down the sewer

The solution has become the problem for Calcutta this monsoon.

All but one of the nine new sewer lines that were to end waterlogging on city streets this year have missed the monsoon deadline, leaving thoroughfares that were supposed to be flood-free swimming in slush and traffic in a perpetual state of chaos.

Of the nine roads where work on upgrading the underground sewer lines started between mid-2008 and early 2009, only Lenin Sarani has seen a project being completed.

The rest — from the Harish Mukherjee Road-Hazra crossing to Beadon Street and Belgachhia — are a maze of barricaded thoroughfares, bothersome diversions and dug-up stretches that get waterlogged at the clap of a thundercloud. Metro does the rounds of some of the work-in-progress chaos zones.

HAZRA CROSSING

Kick-off: Early 2009

Goal: December 2010

Referee report: With barely five per cent of the work completed so far, this one is set to go into extra time and more. Work has apparently been kept on hold because of a dispute over a new agency being awarded the contract earlier this year without calling for bids. Officials said the previous contract was cancelled because of the slow progress of work.

Red card: A large portion of the road, 6ft wide and 15ft long, has been barricaded for over a year with very little action between the tin sheets. The barricaded portion’s only purpose seems to be to reduce road space on either flank, throwing traffic haywire during rush hour.

“Vehicles coming from the Gopalnagar side now take 15 instead of the normal five minutes to get past the Harish Mukherjee Road-Hazra crossing because of the snarls caused by the barricades,” said a teacher at Asutosh College.

Team talk: The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, which had commissioned the project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, insists that care has been taken to minimise commuter inconvenience. “As of now, only a portion of the road at the Hazra crossing has been dug up. We will take the project till Ballygunge Phari and beyond only after finishing work on Hazra Road in a year’s time,” said an official of the planning and development department of the CMC.

APC ROAD

Kick-off: Mid-2008

Goal: May 2010

Referee report: Ninety per cent of the work has been completed but the deadline has long been breached with more than a few months set to be added to the final score.

Red card: Accidents have become common on APC Road with the dug-up portions forcing vehicles to swerve right and left in rush-hour traffic. A 5 x15ft barricaded portion on the northbound flank, opposite NRS Hospital, is the main culprit, according to motorists.

“That portion has been barricaded in such a manner that north-bound and south-bound vehicles can collide any moment,” complained driver Prasanta Mondal.

A traffic cop confirmed that accidents along APC Road had increased over the past year.

Team talk: A senior official of the civil department of CMC claimed that work on APC Road would be completed soon. “We are almost there. We hope to wind up in another three months,” he said.

SURYA SEN STREET

Kick-off: End-2008

Goal: May 2010

Referee report: Eighty-five per cent of the work is over but the city will have borne the brunt of monsoon chaos by the time the remainder of this project is executed.

Red card: Surya Sen Street has been dug up and barricaded at the intersection with Amherst Street, just before it meets APC Road. The result? Almost half the road is closed to traffic in the middle, leaving barely enough space for a small car to pass through the side. When it rains, the going gets tougher for the motorist and commuter alike.

“Surya Sen Street is a narrow stretch. Now if half of that road is blocked for such a long period, you can imagine what it will be like during rush hour,” said a traffic police officer.

Team talk: The CMC has promised to wrap up work on Surya Sen Street in another five months. Till then, the unspoken message to the city is: suffer.

DUTTABAGAN

Kick-off: End-2008

Goal: End-2009

Referee report: Nearly 90 per cent of the project has been completed but the slow pace of work suggests the remaining 10 per cent won’t be over in a hurry, at least not until the monsoon departs.

Red card: For two years, the stretch beyond the Belgachhia Metro station towards the Duttabagan crossing has resembled a bombed-out war relic with portions of the road dug out and left like that. Residents say they have no idea about what the project is all about and how they stand to benefit from it. A 6x40ft portion at the crossing of Jessore Road and Raja Manindra Road has been barricaded, triggering traffic mayhem.

“This crossing has been a bottleneck for 18 months but nobody seems to care,” rued resident Asit Dutta.

Team talk: An official of the Calcutta Environmental Improvement Project blamed the “diaphragm walls” — large concrete walls constructed underground while laying Metro Railway tracks in the 1980s — for the delay. “At places, our sewers have been obstructed by these diaphragm walls,” he said.

So how soon can citizens hope to get back their road? “The sooner Metro Railway gives us permission to cut through the diaphragm walls, the faster we will be able to complete work,” the official said.

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