The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rallies trample green plan

Calcutta, Dec. 30: Fort William’s grand designs for a greener Maidan have been put on the shelf “in the light of recent events”.

A senior army official today said “recent events” relate to defence minister Pranab Mukherjee’s latest announcement ' that Brigade Parade Grounds will be made available not only to political parties for rallies but also to NGOs and other outfits who want to hold public meetings.

“We had major plans for the Maidan, but in the light of recent events, we haven’t had time to think about them. As of now, all those plans have been shelved,” an army officer said today.

The army refused to comment officially.

Immediately after taking charge as general officer commanding (GOC), Bengal area, last month, Major-General Arun Roye had drawn up a blueprint to ensure that the Maidan remained green through the year.

Sprinklers for watering its carpet, proper drainage facilities so that parts of the ground are not inundated during monsoon and planting trees to make up for the bio-diversity loss were part of that plan.

Roye had met chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy at Writers’ Buildings and discussed his plans. City police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee and senior forest department officials were also there to hear the GOC’s vision unfold.

“He had been very enthusiastic and had elaborate plans for the greening of the Maidan. He wanted to know how much it would cost to have sprinklers across the Maidan to water the soil regularly and ensure that its grass remained green through the year,” said a senior state government official who attended the meeting in mid-November.

Roye had also sought the forest department’s expertise in preparing a project report for restoring the Maidan.

However, army officials today said the greening of the Maidan was the last thing on their minds as they prepared to face another onslaught on the Brigade on January 8, when the CPM will hold a rally, the second at the Brigade in just over 10 days.

A senior forest department official said: “The army wanted regular mowing of the grass to ensure a smoother lawn. Also on the cards was development of the soil so that the lawns were even and there was no waterlogging.

“The report the GOC had sought will take some time since we’ll have to consult experts from the horticulture and irrigation departments over the sprinklers.”

Sprinklers were also recommended to give the trees on the Maidan, covered by layers of dust in winter, a fresher look.

For now, more dust, raised by lakhs of feet trampling the grass, will gather on them.

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