A former top bureaucrat of the Bengal government on Sunday said lack of synergy between the Union and state governments was a reason why conservation of heritage and riverfront development in Kolkata were suffering.
Alapan Bandyopadhyay, a former chief secretary of the state government and now chief advisor to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, also said trifurcation of responsibilities among Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) for matters related to the river and the riverfront also made progress difficult.
He was speaking on the occasion of the screening of a documentary, The Dying Ghats of Calcutta, which highlighted the majestic structures along the Hooghly as well as the neglect of the ghats along the river.
“The Kolkata Port Trust is the custodian of the river, including the riverbank. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is responsible for the management of approach roads, waste management and approving building plans of houses, including the ghats, near the river. The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority is responsible for deciding the nature of development that can be allowed near the river. These three units, having affiliation to two sets of government (the central and the state), have to be on the same page for something to happen along the river. There is also the defence ministry involved in some stretches.” said Bandyopadhyay.
While the KMC and the KMDA report to the state government, the KoPT, like the defence ministry, is part of the Union government.
“The basic unresolved issue is the lack of convergence between these organisations. A special purpose vehicle involving all these government organisations was conceived but it never took off,” he said.
The documentary — produced, filmed and directed by heritage enthusiasts Atreyee Basak and Poulomee Auddy — was screened at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture on Sunday.
It was followed by a panel discussion including Rajya Sabha member Jawhar Sircar, artist Suvaprasanna, heritage conservationist G.M. Kapur and Bandyopadhyay.
The event was part of a three-day river festival, held from Thursday.
Laily Thompson, a Kolkatan who has lived in the UK for several years, was among the organisers of the festival.
“This is the second edition of the river festival. We have plans to organise the next edition in November, when the weather allows a congregation on the ghats,” she said.