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Sovan plays safe on Metro

May 18: Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said today that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation would "extend all help" to ensure the smooth progress of the East-West Metro project, but the railways would have to bear the "costs and responsibilities" associated with boring tunnels under 25 buildings on Brabourne Road identified as being in "poor condition" or "very poor condition".

The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), which is the implementing agency for the project, has drawn up a list of 25 buildings, identifying nine of them as being in "very poor condition". The agency has recommended that the buildings be repaired or renovated by their owners, failing which the options were evacuation or demolition.

"The CMC as a nodal agency will extend all help to the KMRC in the progress of the project. But it has to bear the costs and responsibilities," mayor Chatterjee told Metro of the civic body's response to the communication from the agency.

He said a meeting of all parties involved in the project was being arranged.

State government officials said they had already requested the KMRC to "prepare a precisely defined strategy for assessment of the situation and...compensation in case of damages and relocation."

One of the two tunnel-boring machines currently under the Hooghly is expected on the Calcutta side soon. The machine would be stationed on a vacant plot along Strand Road till the uncertainty over repairing the buildings and evacuating the occupants is removed. The buzz is that a professional agency might be hired to handle the logistical challenges of relocation, if that is unavoidable.

On Wednesday, the KMRC wrote to the civic body for the second time to issue notices to the owners and occupants of the buildings for repairs before the underground tunnels cross that stretch.

Railway sources said they wanted a committee to be formed to remove the Brabourne Road hurdle.

Construction company Afcons had moved Calcutta High Court this week, seeking judicial intervention to ensure that the progress of the tunnels is not interrupted till they reach Esplanade. Justice Dipankar Datta took up the petition on Wednesday and is due to hear it again tomorrow.

One seemingly insurmountable hurdle in the way of the East-West Metro was removed on Wednesday when the Union cabinet approved a bill to amend a law to allow infrastructure projects near monuments.

The Archaeological Survey of India has so far withheld permission to allow Metro construction within 100m of three heritage buildings in the BBD Bag neighbourhood.


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