The possibility of another Cyclone coming close to the city has again turned the spotlight on the hazards lurking on our roads.
Bamboo scaffolding erected during Durga Puja are still there on many pavements. Rickety metal hoardings dot many pavements and thick bunches of overhead cables hang from most poles.
These structures can collapse or become missiles hitting people during a storm.
Dilapidated buildings or portions of buildings, with most concentrated in north and central Calcutta, are also present. Metro found out what threats were lurking in the city.
Bamboo scaffolding erected ahead of Durga Puja to put up temporary hoardings are yet to be removed from many places.
Such scaffoldings were still present on Bijon Setu in Ballygunge, on Hazra Road, on Aurobindo Sarani and on CR Avenue on Saturday. The scaffoldings can fall during a heavy gust of wind. A network of bamboos tied together is very heavy and can grievously injure anyone if it collapses.
“Ninety-five per cent of bamboo scaffoldings have been removed. I will ask all organisers to see if there is any scaffolding in their area and remove it,” said Saswata Bose, secretary of Forum for Durgotsab, an association of 400 Durga Puja organisers in Kolkata.
The scaffoldings were erected by the puja organisers. “I will request everyone to remove the scaffoldings,” mayor Firhad Hakim said on Saturday.
Many rickety advertisement boards stand on the footpaths of Kolkata.
An official of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) admitted that the civic body rarely checks the health of the hoardings. It is expected that the outdoor advertising agencies that take hoardings on lease would maintain it, said the official.
The Telegraph spotted a few rickety boards on Park Street. The banners on them had been removed and the tube lights inside were visible. The metal panel of the hoarding had rusted in places.
Several hoardings had collapsed during Cyclone Amphan in 2020.
The KMC official said that new hoardings made of light that are resistant to high wind speed should be built. “The lights hoardings will also inflict minor injuries even if they collapse. There have to be regular checks about the conditions of the hoardings,” he said.
Thick bunches of overhead cables that put tremendous additional weight on street poles are omnipresent.
Over 5,000 poles fell during Amphan. Civic engineers had then blamed the additional weight of cables for their toppling. In the two years since then, very little has changed. Cables still hang from poles everywhere in the city.
Overhead cables have been removed from only one road — Harish Mukherjee Road — and shifted underground.
“The cables should be taken underground. Many Indian cities are now doing this,” said Jaya Dhindaw, programme director of integrated urban development, planning and resilience at WRI India, which works for equitable development.
Trees toppling during storms are common in Calcutta. One of the reasons why trees topple is because the roots are constricted and cannot spread, said Dhindaw.
The area around the roots on most footpaths of Calcutta is concreted, leaving no scope for the surface roots to spread. As a result, the trees become wobbly during strong winds and finally they topple.
Disproportionate trimming — too much on one side and no or little on the other — also distorts the balance of trees.
The KMC has decided to evacuate people from extremely vulnerable buildings, which may collapse. The KMC is also asking residents to not come close to such buildings during the storm and if it rains heavily