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Army nod for Balasun pipeline

Siliguri, Oct. 9: Subrata Mukherjee, the panchayat and PHE minister, today said the army has given its nod to lay the Balasun water pipeline in its area, clearing the last hurdle for the project that would end Darjeeling’s water woes.

The army’s green light was crucial and had been pending for years, delaying the execution of the project under which water will be carried from the Balasun river through pipes, purified in treatment plants and supplied to Darjeeling town.

“The problem has been solved. We have got permission from the Indian Army to lay pipes through their cantonment area for the drinking water project,” Mukherjee, who was here on an official visit, told Metro today.

Mukherjee, who also holds the public health engineering (PHE) portfolio, met officials and Congress, Trinamul and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha MLAs of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts at the circuit house here today.

He said after the Pujas, the PHE department, the Darjeeling municipality and district administration would start replacing old water distribution pipes in the hill town.

“The existing distribution pipes need to be repaired and replaced as these cannot sustain the increased pressure of water, once it starts flowing from the treatment plant,” Mukherjee said.

“We have held talks with the local MLA and our officials, based on which, it has been decided to start this work after Durga Puja. A sum of Rs 8 crore has been sanctioned for this purpose.”

The Balasun drinking water project is a six-year-old plan. Back in 2006, then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had laid the foundation for the project. The project is to supply 2 million gallon of water to Darjeeling town every day, where the demand is around 15-18 lakh gallons in these days. The civic body supplies only 7-8 lakh gallons of water now.

Under the project, water is to be pumped from the Balasun river to the north and south lakes at Senchel, located 12km from Darjeeling town.

From Senchel, pipes will carry water to the St Paul’s and Rockville reservoirs in the town. Two parallel pipes are supposed to pass through the army land for over 6km.

The project, for which the major part of pipeline-laying was complete, was stalled because of the absence of permission from the army.

Mukherjee also spoke about Neora Khola, the treatment and supply plant that provides drinking water to Kalimpong.

“The plant area was damaged in last year’s earthquake, thus affecting water supply in the town,” Mukherjee said.

“We will send experts to the site after Durga Puja, who will inspect the damage, prepare a detailed report, following which repair work will start. Funds would be sanctioned in due course.”

On the Rs 303 crore drinking water project in Siliguri, he said that here, too, the work would commence after Puja.

“We need to develop this new project as the existing project has several lacunae and is insufficient to cater to the city,” he said. The report for the project has already been prepared and further administrative tasks are on to start works, PHE sources said.