The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pitfalls pave progress path

‘Today’s pain, tomorrow’s gain’ reads a common construction-site sign in a Calcutta resembling one big crater.

Commuting in Calcutta has never been more painful in the past two decades, as an army of shovels, hammers, cranes and bulldozers overruns the city streets, from Tallah to Tollygunge.

At least 200 km of the city’s 1,500-km road-length is under excavation work, and monsoon waters.

The promise held out by ‘today’s pain’ — a more modern and manageable metro emerging tomorrow. But for now, it’s all about roads to avoid, slush to skirt, jams to be stuck in and detours to be pre-planned to meet deadlines.

But this is a necessary evil, claims the first citizen. “I know people have been facing severe hardships because of the large-scale digging up of roads and pavements. But the inconvenience is temporary, while the benefit will be permanent,” assures mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Most of the work, he promises, will be over by mid-September and the roads will be restored before the Pujas.

“Rs 70 crore is being spent to lay the pipelines for better distribution of filtered surface water and Rs 109 crore has been invested to augment the city’s water supply and set up booster stations,” he crowed.

Among the projects proving perilous to the Calcutta commuter are the Bansdroni booster pipe-laying, affecting 27.5 km in Bidhan Pally, Bandipur and Nak Para; replacement of old pipes along Ballygunge Circular Road, Monoharpukur Road and Raja Dinendra Street; the delayed Parkomat on Lindsay Street and several others in prime locations.

The players involved in the development drive, “to benefit over two million Calcuttans in the near future”, are Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), agencies financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) and Simplex Projects Ltd.

The construction work and laying of pipelines for five booster stations in different parts of the city are being carried out by the CMC.

The HRBC, post-commission of the Gariahat flyover, has undertaken schemes to concretise Gariahat Road and restore the pavements.

Underground sewer lines are being laid out in parts of James Long Sarani and Diamond Harbour Road by Calcutta Environment Improvement Project (CEIP), funded by the ADB. Lindsay Street is barricaded to facilitate construction of the underground parking plaza, a joint venture of the CMC and Simplex Projects Ltd.

With at least four civic and private agencies working simultaneously and the rains lashing the dug-up streets, the bid to boost infrastructure to make the metro worthy of bearing the projected population load in the next three decades seems most ill-timed for sufferers.

“There are no pavements here any more. With hardly any streetlights functioning and the waterlogging, Gariahat Road is a death trap,” complained resident Ashoka Roy Chowdhury.

Amidst the grumbles and the groans, the city stumbles towards a new and improved tomorrow. As Ruma Dasgupta, a resident of Prince Anwar Shah Road, put it: “The dug-up roads are a curse, but I am looking forward to a better Calcutta.”

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