It’s official — the city’s lungs will get a breather from springtime, 2004.
On July 1, 2003, Metro had raised a cry: ‘Ban the rallies and stop the fairs, give our lungs a breather.’ On November 27, 2003, the state government announced its decision to shift “all fairs” out of the Maidan and into a permanent ground opposite Science City.
State advocate-general Balai Ray conveyed this to a division bench of Calcutta High Court which had, in an earlier order, directed the government to stop allowing fairs to be held near the Victoria Memorial Hall in a bid to safeguard the monument from environmental pollution.
After hearing out Ray, Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice S.P. Talukdar decreed Poila Boisakh the D-Day for clearing out fairs from the city’s favourite greens. “From April 14, 2004, the government should not allow anyone to hold fairs on the Maidan… (Subsequently) organisers would have to come to court for permission to hold fairs on the Maidan,” declared the division bench.
Advocate-general Ray on Thursday appeared for the state and said: “Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked me to inform you that our government has already decided not to give permission to any organisation to hold fairs on the Maidan.” He went on to explain how the government had already earmarked a fairground on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass to hold such fairs. “The ground is being made ready, for which funds have already been sanctioned,” added Ray.
The advocate-general pleaded with the court that, prior to the earlier order, permission had been granted to some government organisations to hold fairs on the Maidan this winter. “Kindly give us permission to hold these fairs on the Maidan,” said Ray, assuring the court that the fairs would pack up by March 5, 2004.
The court granted the advocate-general’s prayer but directed him to ensure that the government keeps a close watch on these fairs, so that “the environmental atmosphere” of the Victoria Memorial complex and its surrounding areas was not disturbed.
Shifting out fairs from the vicinity of Victoria Memorial has been a long-pending demand that snapped back into focus following a public interest litigation by environmental activist Subhash Dutta.
The division bench of Justice Ganguly and Justice Talukdar on Thursday constituted a 14-member expert committee, as recommended by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, to chalk out an action plan to protect the Victoria Memorial Hall.
The pollution control board, meanwhile, has conducted tests on the water samples collected from the Victoria Memorial complex and found them not fit for human consumption. The court directed the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to immediately take steps to supply clean drinking water to the Memorial.