| An eyesore, and a potential security threat. Metal construction materials tower above the unkempt grass and rowdy weeds, all but blocking the Chowringhee skyscape, opposite the American Center. The multi-storeyed mess on the Maidan is a perfect breeding ground for vermin and vice. Picture by Pabitra Das
Scrap and squalor are corroding the city’s lungs, all in a day’s work on the Maidan.
From the agencies working to improve the city beyond the Maidan — be it laying a railway track underground or constructing a road that will fly over the surface — to the 25-odd clubs that run regular canteens on the green, every one is doing its bit to choke the life out of the city’s lungs. This is evident from a joint survey by the agencies that ‘own’ and ‘manage’ the Maidan — the army and the public works department (PWD), respectively.
The survey has succeeded in identifying the preliminary “non-political” causes of the green Maidan greying early and the findings have done nothing to heap honour on the city’s development and entertainment agencies, say officials.
The survey, corroborating the army affidavit filed on Monday in Calcutta High Court, blames the following aspects of a day in the life of the beleaguered Maidan:
§the periodic construction that the areas along Chowringhee see and the consequent dumping of construction material
§the mushrooming of unlicensed eateries in many of the 25-odd clubs that have canteen facilities
§the increasing number of food-vendors (peddling chaat and chai) who just leave their day’s mess on the grounds
§the illegal bus-sheds and stop-overs for drivers and conductors near the Esplanade bus terminus
§the absence of any plastic ban
§the use of a portion opposite Middleton Road along Chowringhee as a toilet.
The joint inspection, state PWD officials admitted, followed several proddings from the army. “It was the army that got in touch with us to focus on the goings-on,” assistant engineer of the Maidan division Chiranjib Raychaudhuri admitted on Tuesday.
“The notices told us in clear terms that the city’s lung was not being cleaned regularly and, consequently, looked more grey than green,” he added.
The “periodic” dumping of iron rods and other construction material on the stretch opposite the Indian Museum, officials say, is actually a round-the-year phenomenon, given the number of ‘development’ activities.
Now, it’s Senbo that’s the ‘culprit’. Though Senbo chief Kajal Sengupta said the iron rods dumped now would be on the flyover within a month, the regular “month-long” dumpings are more than a nuisance, complain army and PWD officials.
Some of the areas that raise a stink the year round include those near some of the more “elite” clubs. The list has the names of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) and the Calcutta Ladies’ Golf Club, say officials.
Also on the list is one particular area near the West Bengal State Transport Corporation (WBSTC), from where two “very busy” tents — one run by the Calcutta Referees’ Association (CRA) and the other being Calcutta Press Club — operate.
“The state of the Maidan, particularly near these clubs, is sad, especially because we have provided no less than eight vats in that stretch,” assistant engineer Raychaudhuri said.
From the westernmost vat (near the St George’s Gate of Fort William) to the one on the far east of the Maidan (near the WBSTC terminus), the garbage bins are placed at convenient spots for the clubs — and visitors — to dump their litter.
The PWD sends nine trucks out to the Maidan daily, from where they return loaded with garbage. All this translates into around 20 tonnes of solid waste every day, say officials, wondering what prevents the clubs from keeping their own environs clean.
The clubs, however, disagree, saying they do not have “any interest” in keeping their surroundings unclean.
RCGC tent executive officer Shantanu Ghosh brushed aside the findings of the joint survey. “We are a closed tent and occupy a very small area,” he pointed out, adding that the inspection officials could have mixed up the RCGC with the other golf club (the ladies’ one, that does not have a fence around it).
Press Club treasurer Premananda Ghosh, too, said the club only had a ‘snacks canteen’, which did not generate that much refuse to dirty the entire area around the club itself. “Besides, we get the area cleaned regularly by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation,” he added.
CRA secretary Kamal Sarkar, however, was more defensive. “Over a hundred people come here every day and we don’t have any vat near our tent, in which we can dump the refuse,” he reasoned.