The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army blueprint to save green
- Private role sought to protect post-fair grounds

This is one line of control that the army is poised to cross for the sake of a city.

Distressed with the mauling of the Maidan in the fair season, the army has decided to play pro-active protector to the lungs of Calcutta.

'The main problem with the Maidan has been the number of fairs and exhibitions,' Major-General Z.U. Shah, GOC-in-C Bengal Area, told Metro.

'Unfortunately, over the years, the army couldn't exercise control owing to several reasons. This year, too, we cannot stop fairs or exhibitions till February, since the permissions were issued well in advance,' he added. 'But now that the army, the police and other allied agencies seem to have resolved to save the area, things are bound to look up.'

The major-general has fired the first salvo by despatching a detailed proposal to the state government on how to protect the Maidan from further devastation.

The proposed plan of action has also been discussed with the police brass.

A crucial meeting between Major-General Shah and chief secretary Ashok Gupta is reportedly scheduled for next week.

The draft plan envisages ways to protect the Maidan, preferably with private participation, while striving to abide by the high court order and restore the lost greenery.

Besides programmes to plant saplings and protect them, stress has also been laid on keeping the green clean.

The proposal invites private partners to spruce up the 20-acre plot from the intersection of Park Street and Chowringhee Road to the area not covered by the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners in the effort to dress up Manohar Das Tarag and its surrounding belt.

This area, states the draft proposal, could be done up with decorative plants, lush green landscaping and proper lighting.

'It's all directed towards saving the greenery,' said Major-General Shah.

Police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee welcomed the proposal, but with a word of caution.

'It is a good move, since it aims at saving the Maidan. But there are certain practical problems that must be considered. Efforts have been launched for a parallel fair ground but things can't be changed overnight,' he observed.

The 'practical problems' referred to by the police commissioner should be on the talks table when chief secretary Gupta and Major-General Shah meet.

The government, for example, is keen to find out if the army will fence off the proposed area or not.

The funding pattern for all subsequent beautification projects on the Maidan must also be debated.

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