If West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has her way in transforming Kolkata into London with the Hooghly river “as the theme on the lines of the Thames,” the city could soon boast of an official gateway like the Gateway of India in Mumbai, a ropeway, an integrated transport system involving road, rail and river transport facilities and even a giant London Eye-like structure.
At the foundation stone-laying event of a pilot project to beautify the banks of the Hooghly within the city limits here on Tuesday, Ms. Banerjee even sought the cooperation of the British High Commission for providing technical expertise to realise such impressive projects.
“In spite of a much smaller population than ours, Londoners could build such a beautiful city through proper planning. Even we can do so if specific plans are in place. Although our government do not have huge amounts of funds like that in London, I believe money will start pouring in from private players once the government takes a positive step towards beautifying the city,” she said in the presence of British Deputy High Commissioner Sanjay Wadhwani.
According to the pilot project launched, a one-km-stretch of the Hooghly banks will be beautified by cleaning up the banks, paving pathways, planting trees, and building cultural and sports activity centres. The estimated cost of the project is Rs.36 crore, which will be borne by the State’s Tourism Department and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). It is expected to be completed in six months.
Part of larger project
It is part of a larger project of beautifying a 10-km-stretch of the Hooghly banks that has been undertaken by a joint venture of the State government, the Kolkata Port Trust, the Railway Ministry, and the KMC. The RITES has been assigned the task of drawing up the master plan.
“While the pilot project will be paid for by the government, the remaining nine-km-stretch will be built on a public-private partnership mode because there is a huge potential for business in the project,” Ms. Banerjee said, adding that owners of the few shops who have to be evicted for the project’s implementation will be “properly rehabilitated.”
Asserting that it will be a “green and dream project” that will be environment-friendly apart from beautifying the river banks, Ms. Banerjee said that a similar project will also be taken up on the Hooghly banks on the side of Howrah district and asked the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority to prepare an action plan.
She, however, appeared to be miffed with the Defence authorities who, she claimed, were posing obstacles on the path of realising her “dream project.”
“It is a system of the defence authorities to create obstructions in every matter. We will, however, seek their cooperation,” Ms. Banerjee said. The Defence’s Eastern Command, incidentally, has its headquarters as well as other establishments along a fairly long stretch of the Hooghly. Hindu