Two barges from the Brahmaputra could well breathe some life into the Hooghly.
Taken on a 20-year lease from the Assam government, these large boats will be converted into a two-storeyed, centrally air-conditioned floating restaurant-cum- shopping plaza. If things go by the plan, the funspot should be afloat next March, on the Hooghly, off the Millennium Park.
The cash-strapped West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC) has clinched the Rs 5-crore project deal with Srinivas Fatehpuria Private Ltd, a company dealing in river transportation. “This could well be the country’s first floating restaurant with a sprawling commercial complex, an auditorium and a sophisticated pub on the waterfront,” said WBSTC managing director Asit Kumar Mondal. The WBSTC will provide the infrastructure, like the jetty and gangway, for a fee of Rs 52,000 per month to the private firm.
According to Ravi Fatehpuria, the entire structure will be constructed on the two barges, measuring 10,000 sq ft each. “Presently stationed at Rishra, in Hooghly, the barges will be brought to the city once we get permission from the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT),” he added.
D.S. Lahiri, a co-promoter of the firm, said the ground floor will house a shopping plaza, comprising around 100 stalls, the first floor will have a kids’ corner and a video-games arcade, the second floor will have a restaurant and a banquet hall, while the terrace will host a theatre auditorium adjoining the pub. “Talks are on with a leading city-based hotel group to take charge of the restaurant and the banquet,” said Lahiri.
Assam transport minister Anjan Dutta came down to Calcutta in October to discuss the matter with his Bengal counterpart, Subhas Chakraborty. “The move will help improve coordination among the neighbouring states for promotion of industries,” observed Mondal. When contacted in Guwahati, N.C. Das, director of Inland Water Transport, said: “We have 13 vessels operating in Bengal and have given two of them for the floatel project.” Das added that Dutta would be visiting Calcutta on December 18 to oversee the project.
Asim Mukherjee, officer on special duty at CPT, said the state government had sought permission for the waterfront project. “We are presently examining some safety aspects,” he added.