The state government has shelved its plan to make a stretch of the Adi Ganga, also called Tolly’s Nullah, flow through a concrete-covered drain in face of strong protests from environmentalists and the difficulty to obtain a no-objection certificate from the central government.
“We have completely abandoned the proposal to put Adi Ganga flowing through a drain and will only do landscaping on its banks for beautification,” said West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) chairman Debasish Sen on Saturday.
Environmentalist Subhas Datta has welcomed the latest development. “The project was a blatant effort to hijack the river through official channels. It was strange that while the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has been given massive funds to clean up the Adi Ganga, another department of the state government should plan otherwise,” he said.
About three months ago, HIDCO had floated a tender, seeking consultancy to turn a part of the Adi Ganga — from the Alipore bridge to the Kalighat bridge — into a drain.
River experts also pointed out that any step to make the Adi Ganga flow through a drain would effectively kill the river beyond Kalighat, where the drain was scheduled to end, as tidal water would not be able to reach the lower part of the river within the city.
“Converting the Adi Ganga into an underground drain by building a promenade and walkways over it — this scheme seems nothing short of a land grab at enormous environmental and ecological costs,” said Nilina Deb Lal, a conservation architect from Kolkata.
Sources said Mamata Banerjee, who lives beside the Adi Ganga, was also not keen on the project as it might create impressions that the underground drain would be constructed for the benefit of the posh residential neighbourhoods planned within the adjacent ‘Alipore Area Development Project’.
Earlier, Kolkata mayor and state urban development minister Firhad Hakim had indicated that the project might not be cleared. “We’ll not allow any inappropriate thing to take place,” he had said in reply to a question in this context.