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Tallah axe barb at Centre

Tallah tank

The Mamata Banerjee government has accused the Centre of scrapping the renovation of the Tallah tank approved under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

The Rs 67-crore scheme for the world’s largest overhead reservoir was approved in March, along with a Rs 47-crore project to augment water supply in the Uluberia municipal area in Howrah.

“The new government at the Centre has cancelled the projects for the Tallah tank and Uluberia Municipality,” municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim said in the Assembly on Wednesday while taking part in a discussion on his department’s budget.

The decision to renovate the 104-year-old north Calcutta landmark was taken after engineers spotted signs of corrosion on its steel plates. “We would need to dry up the cells that store water to replace the steel plates. We also intend to ascertain the condition of the iron pillars that support the 110-ft-high structure and, if required, strengthen them,” said a civic engineer.

The tank, spread across 7 bighas, supplies water to households between South Sinthee in the north to Gariahat in the south and Salt Lake in the east. It can store 9 million gallons of water, enough to quench the thirst of Calcutta for a day and Salt Lake for two days.

According to rules of the urban renewal mission, the Centre gives 35 per cent of the project cost. Which means the Centre’s share in the Tallah project is Rs 23.45 crore.

Hakim said the Centre had not given any explanation for cancelling the projects. “The Centre sent us a letter two-three days back, saying the two projects have been cancelled. They were sanctioned in March, towards the end of the mission’s tenure. No explanation (for the cancellation) was given,” Hakim said.

The minister said the projects, for which tenders have been processed and work orders issued, had been victims of “dola-doli (party politics)”.

“Let them (Union urban development ministry) change the name of the mission. Why should they cancel the sanctioned projects, affecting lakhs of people?”

Asked if the projects would continue, Hakim said the state might now have to bear the entire cost. “We have written to the Centre, protesting the undemocratic move and pleading for the renewal of the projects,” the minister said.

Hakim said his department would extend an annual assistance of Rs 100 crore to 62 small municipalities to help them pay the power bills. “We have been extending this support to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Now it will be extended to 62 small municipalities.”