The state government has finally set itself a deadline to shift the Esplanade bus terminus.
The government on Friday submitted in Calcutta High Court that it would shift the Esplanade bus terminus more than 3km from the Victoria Memorial Hall by January 14 in compliance with an order of the court.
The division bench of Justice Ashim Kumar Banerjee and Justice Debangshu Basak expressed satisfaction over the decision and directed the government to furnish a compliance report by January 27.
On September 28, 2007, a division bench headed by Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya had issued several orders to protect Victoria Memorial from air pollution. The most significant directive was to shift the terminus to a place at least 3km from the marble monument.
The state has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the order. But the apex court upheld the high court order.
Since then, the high court has passed several orders while the state government kept buying time.
Earlier, the state transport department had informed the court that it had spotted a few plots near the EM Bypass and in Belghoria and Howrah where the terminus could be shifted.
“At last the state government has decided to shift the bus terminus from Esplanade. Relocating the terminus is a must to protect the monument from air pollution,” said environment activist Subhas Dutta, on whose petition filed in 2007 the high court had issued the shift order.
When the case came up for hearing on Friday, senior standing counsel for the state Sunderananda Pal conveyed the government’s decision to the bench of Justice Banerjee and Justice Basak.
A transport department official said around 300 private buses plying on 45-odd routes operate out of the Esplanade depot. No government bus uses the terminus anymore, the official said.
“The transport department decided to remove the bus depots of all its undertakings from Esplanade before the high court ordered the setting up of a committee in September to suggest how the terminus could be shifted,” said a transport department official.
Transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhayay had on September 14 deposed before the court that the transport department had identified 10 acres in New Town to set up a bus terminus.
Officials said on Friday that work on the multi-tiered terminus would begin soon.
Petitioner Dutta submitted in the court that three big rallies are lined up on the Maidan. Also, tents for the Ganga Sagar pilgrims would be pitched on the city’s precious patch of green.
“Lakhs of people will assemble in the rallies and Ganga Sagar tents but there is no conventional toilet on the Maidan. People will answer their nature’s call in the open, causing pollution in the area. The court should ask the state government to take action to protect the area from pollution,” Dutta said.
The green activist also pointed out that the army had planted a lot of saplings on the Maidan. “The saplings may be destroyed if such huge gatherings are allowed. So the government should take measures to protect the saplings,” Dutta submitted.
The bench found merit in the submission and asked the government to construct enough conventional and bio-toilets on the Maidan. “I saw bio-toilets at Milan Mela during the Book Fair. Why can’t the government set up such bio-toilets on the Maidan?” Justice Banerjee, the senior judge of the division bench, asked.
The bench also directed the state government to take appropriate measures to protect the Maidan saplings. “There should be adequate guards so the saplings are not disturbed,” the division bench ruled.
The bench also said the organisers of rallies would have to pay the cost of setting up the toilets.