WHILE MAMATA BANERJEE HOLDS BUSINESS SUMMIT IN NORTH BENGAL
By bappaditya paul
Even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has just held a business summit in north Bengal to woo investment, the region’s main business and administration hub Siliguri is awaiting clearance for a very basic amenity ~ a new drinking water project to cater to its ever rising population.According to officials in the state Public Health and Engineering (PHE) department, it’s been over two months that proposal for a Rs 350 crore water project was sent to the State Planning Board but a clearance was yet to come through. The State Planning Board is chaired by planning minister Mr Rachpal Singh and has experts nominated by the state government from various fields as member.
The irony is that the project is nothing new and rather has been gaining dust for nearly five years now. It was first mooted in 2009 by then state urban development minister, Mr Asok Bhattacharya but it could not make any significant progress because of the political turmoil that gripped the state soon, culminating in the ouster of the Left Front from power in 2011.
The project proposes to draw water of the Teesta River from Gajoldoba barrage in Jalpaiguri using large pipes that will traverse a distance of 27 km. This will add another 83.59 million litres of water per day (MLD) to the Fulbari water treatment plant that supplies drinking water to Siliguri town and its suburbs.
The existing capacity of Fulbari plant, built decades ago, is 55.02 MLD; whereas going by the 2011 Census, the population of greater Siliguri had risen to 8.09 lakh. The government of India suggests that in urban areas every individual should get 135 litres of water a day and for rural areas it is 70 litres a day.
Principal Secretary of the state PHE department, Mr Sourav Das said that he had no immediate update on the project status after it had been submitted to the State Planning Board; the department’s engineer-in-chief, Mr Bappa Sarkar, echoed him.
Going by the way things are moving, it is unclear when this project will get the mandatory nod. And even after it gets a go ahead, if at all, it will take some more time before the actual work can begin: this is because, after a clearance from the Planning Board, the project will have to be vetted by the finance department.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 21 January 2015.)