A traffic disaster is set to strike the heart of the city, as Calcutta Book Fair gets under way on the Park Circus Maidan on January 29.
Police fear inadequate parking space in the vicinity of the fairground — several busy roads will have to be taken over for parking — will cripple traffic in vast stretches of central Calcutta till the fair ends on February 11.
A footfall of lakhs — 20 lakh, according to a police estimate — in the overcrowded zone will make matters worse.
Representatives of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the city police visited the site on Tuesday to identify parking space and finalise crowd-control arrangements.
“There is no space for parking,” asserted Ranveer Kumar, the joint commissioner of police (traffic), who was in the inspection team. “We’ll have to take over a few roads — among the busiest in the city — to set up parking lots.”
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, while granting permission to the Publishers and Booksellers Guild to hold the fair on the Park Circus ground, had made it clear that it would not make any arrangement for car parking.
At a meeting with civic representatives on December 20, the police had expressed its opposition to allowing the Book Fair at Park Circus because of the traffic mess it would trigger. Yet, the civic body okayed the Guild’s proposal.
Left with no option, the police have decided to set up parking zones for fair visitors on Darga Road, Suhrawardy Avenue, CIT Road and some other thoroughfares. “But these roads can hardly accommodate up to 200 vehicles, and that, too, at the cost of unmanageable snarls,” said an officer of the traffic department.
Police records say that 500-700 vehicles used to be parked on the Maidan, off Park Street, when the fair was held there.
Parking is now not allowed on most of the shortlisted roads to ensure smooth flow of traffic through the congested pocket. “The roads remain chock-a-block with vehicles for most part of the day. More than 20,000 vehicles pass through the seven-point crossing daily. Add to them the cars of the visitors, and you can well imagine the traffic turmoil awaiting the fair days,” the officer pointed out.
“A snarl on Bridge No. 4 can spread to Shakespeare Sarani, Park Street and even Gariahat Road,” another officer said.
Crowd-control is another headache of the cops. The pavements around the Maidan could be barricaded for regulating the crowd. “But that won’t be possible at Park Circus, where the sidewalks are all occupied by encroachers.”
The Book Fair recorded around 25-lakh footfall when it used to be held on the Maidan. This year, with the venue being shifted to Salt Lake stadium, the figure did not cross 10 lakh.