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Since 1st March, 1999
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Mela minus mauling of Maidan' Mission impossible, say the greens
The Maidan site that hosted Book Fair 2006 and will see the 2007 edition, too, is yet to regain its lush green carpet. The grass is yellow or grey, and some patches are bald.

The Maidan is dead, long live the Maidan.

With the ministry of defence giving the green light to yet another Book Fair on the Maidan and the state government determined to make it the permanent site for the fair, one might as well write the epitaph of the precious patch of green.

“Now, with the army also surrendering, only God can save the Maidan,” sighed a member of the green lobby.

Permission for “temporary use of the Maidan for Book Fair 2007” has been granted, subject to the condition that “no environmental or any other degradation of the Maidan” is caused.

That is mission impossible. Metro examines the mauling that awaits the Maidan, one more time.

Q: Is it possible for the Book Fair to be held without damaging the Maidan'

A: No way. “Book Fair is particularly harmful because of the number and nature of stalls and the 25-lakh footfall in 10 days,” says environmentalist Chiro Dutta.

Q: What environmental damage does the fair cause'

A: Immense and long-term. “The impact on the ground and the grass is enormous, due to all the digging, laying of cables, temporary toilets, cooking and trampling,” says Subhas Dutta, whose petition in 2002 had started it all.

In a failed missive to the defence minister on Tuesday, Dutta had urged A.K. Antony not to grant permission because “the Maidan constitutes 60 per cent of the city’s total greenery and damage to the lungs will be fatal”.

A state pollution control board study in 2001 showed “alarmingly high concentration” of dust level on and around the fair venue that could cause “premature death of ill and elderly people”.

“There is a 250-year-old waterbody and a line of trees almost 200 years old. The damage to these is enormous. Then, there is the dumping of waste, including plastic,” rues Upen Biswas.

Q: What is the evidence of such damage'

A: The scars of previous fairs are yet to heal. “The entire fair ground has turned grey or brown from lush green. Several patches have gone bald,” laments Dutta, demanding a pollution study on the site, not carried out since 2001.

“This stretch of the Maidan has become uneven due to this annual assault of mass digging and then filling, often with bricks,” says S.M. Ghosh.

Q: Will the Guild clearing the mess on the Maidan help'

A: It will, at best, be a cosmetic cover-up. “Every year, the army is giving permission with a rider that the fair be held without damaging the Maidan and every year, the Maidan is mutilated and reduced to a mess. This is a farce… the defeat of environment at the hands of political power play,” says Subhas Dutta.

Q: Is the deposit money (Rs 20,000) of any consequence'

A: The sum is ridiculously low, considering the Guild boasted business worth Rs 22 crore in Book Fair 2006. And considering the approximate charges for hiring the Sangam hall inside Fort William for a private function for one evening works out to Rs 25,000-plus.

Q: What is the solution'

A: Shift the Book Fair out of the Maidan, as the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government had proposed in court in 2003.

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