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'Carry' charge for cable duct

Intertwined cables hang loose along the Park Circus connector. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta: Park Street, Alipore Road and Belvedere Road will be rid of the mess of overhead cables by September-end and operators have to pay a "carrying charge" for use of the alternative ducts or channels that are to be created.

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim told Metro on Thursday that the government was open to funding the project or getting a private partner to do so. "But operators who use the infrastructure we create will have to pay for it," he said.

According to Hakim, the plan is to create surface ducts along wide roads and pavements. At places where the roads are narrow, going underground is the preferred option.

The minister said that since Alipore Road and Belvedere Road have clear and wide pavements, the cable ducts proposed to be built there will run along the surface. Park Street lacks space, so the initial plan is to build underground ducts.

"We will be trying to complete the pilot project in three months. We will only build the ducts or channels through which cables can go," Hakim said.

The project comes barely two months after chief minister Mamata Banerjee told cable operators that their cabling methods had caused visual pollution. A group of ministers set up to regulate how cabling is done across the city decided to run the pilot on three roads that probably have fewer impediments than other thoroughfares.

"Engineers of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will prepare a financial estimate to create the ducts, which we think will be Rs 4-5 crore. The government might fund the project. We are also looking at options to create the ducts through the public-private partnership mode," the urban development minister said. "If a private party funds the project, it can recover some of the costs by charging the multi-system and telecom operators."

Hakim said he had spoken to CMC commissioner Khalil Ahmed and engineers about implementing the pilot project in boroughs VI and IX.

Municipal officials said they would snap any cable running overhead once the new ducts were ready for use.

Mayor Sovan Chatterjee had revealed the plan to implement a pilot project on Wednesday while replying to a question from a councillor during their monthly meeting at the CMC headquarters.

Metro had first highlighted the mess created by overhead cables in a report published on August 31 last year. The city has at least seven multi-system operators that transmit television signals through cables running overhead. More than 12 broadband service providers use the same method. In Jadavpur, Kasba and Garden Reach, even electricity and telephone cables run overhead along some stretches.

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