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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Tons of garbage will soon bury Kolkata

Sandip Chowdhury, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, January 08, 2013
First Published: 17:13 IST(8/1/2013) | Last Updated: 17:14 IST(8/1/2013)

What was a triumphant political strategy in the summer of 2011 is now literally threatening to bury Kolkata under a mountain of garbage!

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Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s unwavering stand against land acquisition has landed the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) in a soup, since the civic body’s authorities can no longer proceed with the setting up of a new dumping ground for the city’s solid waste because the state government has refused to approve their acquisition proposal.

Dhapa, the only dumping ground for solid-waste disposal in Kolkata, covers an area of only 23.3 hectares. The site is utterly inadequate to handle the 4,000-4,500 tons of rubbish that the city generates every day, and the KMC is in dire need of an alternative.

After months of scouting, KMC engineers and land surveyors finally found a plot measuring about 500 hectares, of which they wanted to buy a minimum of 100 hectares at the earliest. But the government has not approved the project yet, in keeping with Mamata’s hands-off policy on land acquisition.

Although experts say the civic body needs about 300-350 hectares for the alternative dump site, the KMC has already compromised by putting in a request for only 100 hectares, which, it says, will help keep the city clean for the next 20 years. The plot in question is at Kharamba, about 20km from Dhapa, and adjacent to the Calcutta Leather Complex at Bantala in South 24-Parganas.

“Three months ago, municipal commissioner Khalil Ahmed wrote to chief secretary Sanjoy Mitra requesting the state government to initiate the process of land acquisition at the earliest, since the matter is of critical importance,” member, mayor-in-council (solid-waste management), Debabrata Majumder told Hindustan Times, adding that Ahmed had received no response from the state government. But the Trinamool government’s land policy isn’t the only thing giving the KMC authorities sleepless nights. The availability of funds is also a major concern. “Even going by the minimum value of the land at Kharamba, the KMC still has to shell out about R75 crore for the 100 hectares,” senior civic engineers said. The plot at Kharamba falls outside the boundary of the East Kolkata Wetlands — an International Ramsar site that cannot be touched for any sort of development. “We require land immediately since the Dhapa dumping ground is already overloaded and anything extra might cause a collapse any day,” a civic technocrat said. Sceptical of getting the nod from the state, the KMC’s civic engineers have decided to restart the Herculean task of finding yet another piece of land.

“We’ve already rejected many sites, either because they were located within the East Kolkata Wetlands or because they weren’t big enough to serve as a dumping ground for the next two decades. We’ll start searching again by next week,” a senior civic technocrat told HT.

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