The Telegraph
Thursday , July 12 , 2012
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Mind the gap: rain adds to great divide
Old city sinks, CMC sleeps

Tomorrow never comes except in a much-abused Calcutta Municipal Corporation slogan.

An hour and a half of rain on Wednesday afternoon left large stretches of north and central Calcutta flooded, contradicting the civic body’s promise — “Today’s pain, tomorrow’s gain” — every time it digs up roads to lay or clear drainage pipes.

Stagnant water in several north Calcutta neighbourhoods told the story of the rot in civic maintenance. In places like Northern Avenue, Paikpara, Bhupen Bose Avenue, Thanthania, Amherst Street and MG Road, Calcuttans on the move were forced to wade through waist-deep water. Vivekananda Road, Beadon Street, Bagbazar, Central Avenue and the Ultadanga underpass were under knee-deep water.

The north-south divide was apparent not only in the approach of the weather gods but also in the CMC’s attitude.

Even an hour after the rain had stopped, neither mayor Sovan Chatterjee nor mayoral council member Rajib Deb seemed to be aware of north Calcutta’s torment.

Seated in the comfort of their bone-dry office chambers, engineers of the civic body’s drainage department weren’t exactly scratching their heads in despair either.

The sufferers, as usual, were ordinary citizens who didn’t have a choice but to get their clothes wet and feet dirty.

“I have been hearing that Calcutta roads would be rid of waterlogging at least for the past 15 years, only to find the city swimming in stagnant water every monsoon,” said Amrita Chatterjee, a homemaker from College Street who had to get off a taxi near the School of Tropical Medicine on Central Avenue and wade through thigh-high water with her six-year-old daughter.

The stretch from Calcutta Medical College and Hospital till Girish Park Metro station was inundated within 30 minutes of the rain starting around 11.30am.

Traffic came to a standstill on both flanks, till Chandni Chowk at one end and Bagbazar on the opposite side. Many vehicles broke down.

Residents of north Calcutta said they hadn’t seen such flooding in Bagbazar, Bhupen Bose Avenue, Beadon Street and Grey Street in years.

At Paikpara, Milk Colony and Cossipore, where the Calcutta Environmental Improvement Project is underway, the only improvement witnessed was in the earnings of rickshaw-pullers.

The subway at Howrah station was in knee-deep water for almost two hours.

The CMC had come up with a plan to “mitigate flood, cyclone and waterlogging in the year 2012-13” just last month. Workers were hired to monitor the gully pits along 18 flood-prone stretches between South Sinthee and College Street.

So why didn’t it work? “There was no coordination among the mayor, municipal commissioner and his team,” an official said.

Mayor Chatterjee admitted he didn’t know north Calcutta was flooded. “I have come to know about this from you. I am looking into it,” he told Metro.

Do you think the CMC doesn’t care about north Calcutta? Tell