The Bengal government is considering whether a new underwater tunnel across the Hooghly can be built connecting the Calcutta port, transport minister and mayor Firhad Hakim told Metro on Saturday.
Hakim said this would reduce traffic congestion in the city as a significant load of goods vehicles heading to or coming from the port would reduce. The government is still discussing the matter internally and if the project seems feasible it will approach the Calcutta Port Trust, he added.
Hakim met traders, transporter’s bodies and labour unions in Burrabazar on Monday to discuss their shifting out of the city so that large trucks do not require to enter the city.
On Saturday, Hakim said after the weekly phone-in programme — Talk to Mayor — that the government was trying to reduce the entry of trucks into Calcutta. “We are also trying to see if there can be a different route for the trucks going to the port so that they do not have to take the city’s roads. This will improve the city’s air quality,” he said.
Later, Hakim told Metro that the government was mulling whether an underwater tunnel could be built. “We are considering a plan whether an underwater tunnel can be built that will be connected to the port. It will reduce the traffic snarls in Calcutta and goods vehicles too will get a route to the port,” he said. “This is still in a preliminary stage of discussion. If we find there is scope for progress we will approach the port authorities.”
A senior official of the Calcutta Port Trust said that
they had already floated a tender to hire a consultant who would do the techno-feasibility report of an underwater tunnel.
“We are now evaluating the bids submitted in response to our tender. Once the consultant is hired, we will formally approach the state government. This project cannot be done without their cooperation,” said the official.
The port official said the project would be developed either under a public-private partnership (PPP) mode or by the government directly. The cost will depend on the route and design of the project — especially on the Howrah side, taking into consideration where and how the tunnel will meet the highway.
The Calcutta Port Trust has two docks, both in the Kidderpore-Garden Reach area, and large containers have to go and return from docks through the city’s roads.
East-west Metro that will connect Howrah Maidan with Sector V has a 520-metre tunnel under the Hooghly between Mahakaran and Howrah stations.
Currently, trucks and large containers entering the city take two routes — via BT Road and Vivekananda Setu. Some other trucks, lesser in numbers, enter through Baruipur and Diamond Harbour Road, said a Calcutta police officer.
“The goods vehicles entering through BT Road and Vivekaknanda Setu are mostly inter-state trucks while those coming via Baruipur and Diamond Harbour Road are intra-state vehicles.”
The trucks and containers are allowed to enter the city between 10pm and 8am on all days. Besides, trucks and containers headed towards the port are given a four-hour window to travel through the city between noon and 4pm.
Heavy goods vehicles are known to be large emitters of the highly toxic PM2.5. Several air quality experts said that restricting their entry into Calcutta could help reduce the city’s air pollution.
Besides PM2.5, the emission from diesel-powered goods vehicles includes toxic oxides of nitrogen that can combine with other gases to form ozone. Inhaling these toxic elements can have both short and long-term health impacts, said doctors.