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Land lock for East-West

The East-West Metro has run into a land hurdle in Salt Lake’s Duttabad where 150-odd families have refused to move out, forcing the authorities to look for a technical workaround to save the city’s most ambitious infrastructure project in recent years.

Work on erecting 13 pillars on a 375-metre stretch in Duttabad to support a part of the elevated stretch of the east-west corridor has not started for two years as the residents have vowed to stay put, rejecting the compensation package and the offer for rehabilitation on the original plots after the construction is over.

“We are in a fix. The urban development department says it owns the Duttabad land, while the residents have produced documents claiming the plots belong to them,” said an official of Calcutta Metro Railway Corporation, the executing agency of the project.

The 14.67km-corridor, which will link Salt Lake Sector V and Howrah Maidan, is running late by two years (the original deadline was 2014) and officials fear the residents’ stand may delay the project further and increase the estimated cost of Rs 5,000 crore by at least 15 per cent.

The elevated portion of the East-West Metro spans around 5.77km and covers six stations between Sector V and Salt Lake stadium. The underground stretch from the stadium runs 8.9km till Howrah Maidan, covering six stations.

Officials of the executing agency say 60 per cent of the work on the elevated stretch is complete.

The curved corridor over Duttabad, between Bengal Chemical and City Centre Salt Lake stations of East-West Metro, extends from close to the Bypass-Maniktala Main Road crossing to near Vidyadhari Vidyalaya off City Centre (see map).

The 13 pillars that will support the stretch will come up in two water bodies.

“There is no way we can skirt the contentious patch as the alignment of the route can’t be altered now. The entire project will be a non-starter if we fail to set up the corridor over Duttabad,” the official said.

Left with no other option, the executing agency, a joint venture company of the state government and the Centre, is considering a technical innovation to bridge the gap in the elevated corridor without building the pillars.

“A tender has been floated and we hope to hire a firm to find a technical solution to the problem by next month,” said Subrata Gupta, the managing director of Calcutta Metro Railway Corporation.

Insiders said two options were being considered:

nSupport the stretch between Bengal Chemical and City Centre with cables (like Vidyasagar Setu).

nTweak the design and erect the link on three, instead of 13, pillars.

“By decreasing the number of pillars, we will be able to minimise the chances of run-in with the residents. Whatever course we take, it will call for an investment of Rs 40 crore,” the official pointed out.

The Duttabad residents are enjoying the support of political parties on both sides of the divide in what they claim is their fight for rights.

“Way back in the 1950s, the irrigation department had issued parchas empowering the families to live as tenants on the plots. Suddenly, the government is claiming they are squatters. How can we accept that?” said Radhanath Chand, the local CPM councillor of Salt Lake municipality. “We’re keenly watching the next step and will act accordingly.”

The Trinamul Congress, too, has lent its voice against “eviction”.

“We are not against the project but the families can’t be evicted. We have spoken to Sujit Bose (local Trinamul MLA) several times and believe a solution can be found,” said Krishna Chakraborty, the Trinamul chairperson of the municipality.