Monday, 30th October 2017

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Money flows on watery streets

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  • Published 30.06.10

Money is flowing like water on the streets of Calcutta.

From 2005, Rs 2,520 crore has been — or is being — pumped into various projects to tackle the city’s waterlogging problem. And if Monday morning and Tuesday evening were anything to go by, a lot of it has gone down the drain.

A citizen wading through the waterlogged streets on Tuesday evening — after a freakishly sweltering day — would wonder where the Rs 2,520 crore is going, going, gone. Well, here’s where:


Rs 1,900 crore (ADB-funded Calcutta Environment Improvement Project)

• Re-excavation of canals: Rs 161 crore

• Drainage infrastructure: Rs 1,048 crore

• Rehabilitation; Rs 31 crore

• Miscellaneous: Rs 660 crore

Rs 500 crore (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission)

• Enlargement of non-man entry sewer: Rs 97 crore

• Revamp of man-entry sewer: Rs 403 crore

Rs 120 crore (Project Nikashi, initiated by former mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya)

• Development of drainage system: Rs 43 crore

• New drainage pumping stations: Rs 12 crore

• Revamp of old pumping stations: Rs 10 crore

• Automation in pumping stations: Rs 40 crore

• Procurement of sewerage-cleaning machines: Rs 15 crore

Why pump in crores if the Calcuttan — who will have to pay back to the funding agencies through tax with interest — is still having to wade to work or home? “It is not about how much money is being spent but where and how,” pointed out a former chief engineer of the CMC.

Take for example the Rs 10 crore spent on the “revamp of old pumping stations”. The one reason why south Calcutta was flooded on Monday and Tuesday was because the septuagenarian pumps could not cope with the crises.

“The initial plan was to revamp around 45 pumps and motors at all pumping stations with an investment of Rs 200 crore. That was arbitrarily slashed to Rs 10 crore. So, what is masquerading as ‘revamping of old pumping stations’ actually means just changing two pumps at the Palmerbazar station, which will hardly improve the waterlogging situation in the city,” added the retired chief engineer.

As for “how” the money is being pumped in, the problem lies in the lack of “honest supervision of the work” by a qualified team.

“Now, the progress of a project is measured by the payment made to contractors and there is no accountability. No one is around to supervise the work,” said a CMC veteran.

Experts point a finger at the obsession of successive civic boards and mayors with “short-term measures” meant to tide over the monsoon mess every year.

If ex-mayor Bhattacharyya underlined the need to scoop out silt from the underground sewers, present first citizen Sovan Chatterjee is stressing the need for refurbishment of existing pumping stations and setting up of lifting stations at key points.

No one has bothered to point out that the city does not need ad-hoc schemes costing crores, but a drainage master plan and an integrated approach for Calcutta to be rid of its waterlogging woes.

If that is not done in a hurry, the pledge of the mayor — better known as ‘Jol’ Sovan — to rid Calcutta of waterlogging by 2012 will be a washout.

Unless, of course, it stops raining. As Calcuttans were beginning to fear it had on a hot and humid Tuesday.

“Tuesday morning saw clear skies, which resulted in higher temperatures. Coupled with the humidity the discomfort factor was high,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, the director of the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore.

Till the thunderstorm struck around 6pm and it began to pour — and flood the streets.

Large parts of south and central Calcutta promptly went under water, slowing down all those rushing home to catch the World Cup action.

“There will be rain all over south Bengal over the next 48 hours. The weather will generally be pleasant,” said Debnath, after the city received 57mm of rain till 8.30pm on Tuesday.

An official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said: “Calcutta is going through normal monsoon conditions and the flow is active. There is no need to worry.”

The worry, of course, is the waterlogging.


• Clean gully pits at night with gully-pit emptiers

• Desilt pipe sewers at night

• Remove encroachment from surface drains

• Afternoon sweeping

• Closer co-ordination with fisheries and state irrigation department