Kolkata's green belt

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation under its Kolkata Environment Improvement Project (KEIP) funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), has planned green belts that will run along three key stormwater canals for a total length of 41 km. The three channels are the Tollygunge-Panchanna canal that sends sewer water from Jadavpur, Santoshpur, Dhakuria and Mukundapur to the Chowbagha pumping station and finally flushes it out into the Bidyadhari; the Churial canal, which is the only canal in Kolkata that flows from east to west from Joka to the Hooghly and Monikhali or Begor canal beyond Behala. As the success of the ambitious project will depend on a number of environmental factors, KMC has roped in horticulture experts to handle the nitty-gritty. The execution will be in the hands of a private operator and tenders have been floated for this already. The final selection will be made by end-October and work will start next month.KEIP officials are in touch with the state forest department to select the right kind of fruit trees, medicinal plants and other eco-friendly shady trees that will be suitable for such a drive. The green stretches have been divided into type-one and type-two forestry zones. While the former will have fruit trees and medicinal herbs, the latter stretch will be home to bigger, shady trees. A wide range of fruits that thrive in Kolkata weather — coconut, amla, jackfruit, mangoes like Himsagar, Amrapali and Mallika, guava, lemons such as batabi, kagzi and pati — will be planted. Popular medicinal plants like aloe vera, kalmegh, sarpagandha and aswagandha have been shortlisted.“What sets this project apart from other green drives is the fact that fruit trees will be planted. This will make the project self-sustaining, at least to an extent. We have chosen fringe areas because it is difficult to get land in the city proper. While in most places the width of the green verge will be five metres, in some places it will be three metres, as we have to ensure smooth traffic flow as well,” said Debashish Guha, administrative officer of KEIP. As there is a chance the green verge may be destroyed, KEIP has imposed a condition that the executor will have to maintain the entire belt till 2010. Watering and manuring the plants, administering medicines, pruning and cleaning of weeds and, above all, protecting the trees from encroachers will be the responsibility of the executor. Forest officials are excited. “It is a unique project as it doesn’t talk about landscaping and ornamental plants only but involves planting fruit trees and other shady forest species. We are very happy to help because it is only through such greening projects that we will be able to counter pollution,” said Nilanjan Mullick, deputy conservator of forests, urban recreational forestry.

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