[First appeared on Sunday, February 05, 2006]
New Town, to the east of Kolkata, is where the city is headed in its eastward drive. Action Area II & III of New Town need land development before amenities are built, and handed over later to prospective owners. The task of filling low-lying lands is mammoth and is expected to take more than 2 years.
The job itself is simple – that of fetching silt from banks of river Hooghly in trucks traversing nearly 16 km of central Kolkata’s tortuous roads. What though is not simple is how to manage all of 29 million cubic meters of soil needed for completing the work. According to estimates, about 1.5 million truck-trips, each laden with about 20 cubic meters of silt, will be required to fill in over 1165 hectares of land, so earmarked in New Town.
Going by above estimate, around 1875 one-way trips must be done everyday over about 2-year period which translates to not less than 75 trips per hour. A daunting task, to say the least. Anyone who is even cursorily acquainted with central Kolkata’s roads would immediately know what a hellish nightmare awaits.
Such was not the problem when Salt Lake was developed three and a half decades back. Silt was then transported through pipeline from Hooghly. But that was then. Now the story is more murkier. It would presumably cost upward of 3.5 billion rupees for pipeline transport. Should it be a ropeway then? No chance, says officials, for there too the cost is prohibitively high.
If there’s any silver lining in all this, it’s just plain hope that post New Town Kolkata may after all be a better place to live. Till then Kolkatans will have to bear the pain of growth, high hopes notwithstanding.