FAQ on Adi Ganga

on Metro Rail Expansion on Adi Ganga

What is so important about a dirty drain called Tolly's Nullah?

Because it is not Tolly's Nullah at all. From Hugli river to Garia, it is Adi Ganga, the original course of the Ganga river. The present stretch after Garia was excavated by Major Tolly in 1776 and only that stretch may be called Tolly's nullah. 

Well so what if it is Adi Ganga - it is a dirty drain after all.

It is the heritage river of this city, a link to the glorious past of Bengali culture and civilisation. And Metro is constructing over it. It is like constructing a high rise on the lawn of Jorasanko Thakurbari. 

Is not Metro going underground after Tollygunge? 

No. It will run overhead on a series of several hundreds of pillars laid in the middle of Adi Ganga. 

So how do the environmental issues come up here?

The pillars will choke the flow of the river and there will be no more possibility of any navigation. 

But was this nullah ever navigable?

Yes, even several decades back it was used for transportation of goods. Once it was the connecting waterways with East Bengal. And presently state government has plan to use it for navigation which is environment friendly and less energy consuming. 

But Metro project will provide money to clean, widen and renovate this dirty nullah improving environment. Calcutta will have better transport. So lets forget navigation.

Sorry, it is not so simple. Calcutta High Court has already ordered three years ago to clean this river and bring it back to its original shape. Central Government has already provided money. Still there is no progress. So Metro will not be able to do anything. 

Why can not it be done? Who is stopping it? 

Widening and cleaning of this river will require removal of the settlers on this river. That requires a comprehensive resettlement plan. No one is serious about it. In West Bengal where artificial population increase has been the norm for last five decades, eviction and rehabilitation has to be a part of most of the development planning. The political and administrative sectors do not want to take the difficult decisions. 

So what do you think of the future of this project then?

Metro Rail construction will also cause some displacement. So it will be difficult but still possible to construct through the middle of the river. But the river will possibly never be renovated and the hundreds of pillars on this already dead stream will ultimately exterminate this Heritage River Adi Ganga. 

Then do you have any alternative plan for Metro expansion?

Yes. Metro Rail's original plan was to construct the pillars on the right bank of the river. This was changed to evade the eviction problem but as said before it cannot be avoided. So the original plan should be followed.

You have gone to High Court and High Court has ordered that Metro Rail needs no environmental clearance. Why? 

We do not agree with the judgment. The judgment cites Clause 11 of Railways Act 1989 which has given Railways right to construct anywhere without any restriction. But preamble of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 states that it was enacted to implement the decisions of Stockholm Conference of 1972 in accordance with the Article 253 of Constitution. So Environment (Protection) Act should get preference over Railways Act 1989 which is an act to run a specific service only and is in fact revised edition of 1890 Act. It is surprising that in 21st century any major project can be carried out without environmental clearance.