Underground ducts along Harish Mukherjee Road in south Kolkata’s Bhowanipore area have been lying ready for nearly two months but the overhead cables for which they were built still hang dangerously overground.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s (KMC) pilot project to clear the mess of overhead cables, ubiquitous across the city, from at least one road has failed to take off yet.
Officials of the civic body said the underground ducts have been lying unused as the cable operators, multi-system operators and the internet service providers have not been able to reach an agreement among themselves on how to take their cables underground. The ducts were built at a cost of Rs 48 lakh, said civic officials.
“The cable operators are playing spoilsport. We will start snipping their connections. Once we start snipping the connections, they will be forced to take the cables underground,” Firhad Hakim, the chairperson of the KMC’s board of administrators, told The Telegraph on Monday.
A senior KMC official said the civic body built the 8inch-diameter duct under the two footpaths, one each on both sides of the road. The service providers have to now insert separate ducts so that they can distinguish different kinds of cables, like telling an internet cable from a television cable. The distinction is necessary for repairs and new connections in future.
Overhead cables hang on a lamp post on Harish Mukherjee Road last week.Sanat Kr Sinha
“We met the service providers and operators in August. Since then they have not done anything to take the cables underground. This is sad and unfortunate,” said the KMC official. “We will soon meet the service providers once again.”
Sources in the KMC, however, doubted whether the service providers could be served a deadline till the KMC elections get over and a new board takes charge. “No one will coerce the service providers till the civic elections are over, which means the cables will stay in that ugly manner for one or two more months,” said the source.
The ducts have been laid along the 2km-length of Harish Mukherjee Road, between Kalighat fire brigade and where the road meets AJC Bose Road to the north of SSKM Hospital. Provisions of reaching the ducts from the footpath have been made after every 30 metres. Two slabs with ‘KMC’ written on them are the openings on the footpath.
The KMC official who was involved in the work to lay the duct said that only power lines would not be taken underground among all the overhead cables.
Two slabs that are the openings to the underground ducts on a footpath on Harish Mukherjee Road.Sanat Kr Sinha
Tapash Das, a joint secretary of All Bengal Cable Operators United Forum, blamed the delay on some technical issues. “There were some issues like how to take the cables to individual houses from the underground ducts. Some of the issues have been solved. We will soon fix a deadline by when all service providers will be asked to put their cables inside the underground ducts,” said Das.
Kolkata is trapped in a monstrous mess of overhead cabling that compromises public safety and belies all claims to beautification.
The KMC has held talks with the service providers over the last two years asking them to clear the mess by at least removing the defunct cables.
The operators have cleared the defunct cables from some roads like the Kasba connector or Harish Mukherjee Road itself. Yet there are stretches along these and other roads in the city where the cables dangle close to the ground.
Thousands of trees and electrical poles were uprooted in the city during Cyclone Amphan in May last year. The weight of the cables was blamed for the poles and trees toppling in the storm.