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A Slice Of The World
January 01, 2012
A Slice Of The World


01 January 2012

Debaleena Sengupta, Kolkata:

This year the people of West Bengal will be able to get a slice of London, Bangkok and Switzerland at their doorsteps. Several projects are in the pipeline to give the state and its capital an international look and feel.

A little bit of London in Kolkata
The riverfront beautification project, which is being touted in the power corridors of Writers’ Building as Mamata Banerjee’s pet project, is all set to re-create the banks of Thames right here in Kolkata. This Rs 36-crore project will cover an area of 10 kilometers from Hastings in south Kolkata to Cossipor in north Kolkata. Spearheaded by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the planning and designing rights for the same have been given to Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture, while the implementation rights have been bagged by engineering consultancy RITES.

“The total project will be divided into three phases and phase I is likely to be completed by mid-2012,” says a senior RITES official who requests to remain anonymous. The project will undertake reconstruction of old ghats, construction of 15-metre-wide pavements for pedestrians, gardens, food court and open-air theatres along with construction of bigger jetties that would ferry launches and so on. “Calcutta Square, which will be set up at strand road overlooking the river Hooghly, is also going to be a major tourist attraction,” he says. The proposed square promises to be a cultural hub, providing a platform for artistic and literary events.

However, the recreation of London would be incomplete without the iconic London Eye. Therefore, the West Bengal Tourism Department has floated an Expression of Interest for the Kolkata Eye project. “We have received an overwhelming response for the proposed project; the UK-based firm that maintains the London Eye has also expressed an interest in the project,” says Tourism Minister Rachhpal Singh. There have been a couple of creases in the project, starting with the site for the Kolkata Eye shifting to the other side of the river. This was done after an objection was raised by the Ministry of Defence that the riverfront land belonged to them (Eastern Command stationed at Fort William). “Owing to the Ministry’s objection that the Kolkata Eye overlooking the defence positioning at Fort William would lead to serious breach of security, the site has been shifted to the Howrah side,” informs Singh. The minister maintains that the Public Private Partnership, which has been designed to execute the project, would see completion by 2012.

Switzerland of the East
With the Gorkhaland Territorial Agreement having been signed with the Gorkhaland Janamukti Morcha in July 2011, the state government is trying to transform the hills into Switzerland of Bengal. The department is setting up log houses and motels along with tented accommodations for adventure loving tourists in Sandak Fu, the highest point in the state. Plans are afoot to set up fishing villages by the Teesta river to revive the ailing tourism industry in the north. “These projects will be done through the PPP model, according to which the government will provide land and infrastructure while private organisations will be responsible for the maintenance,” says Singh.

A fun-filled carnival
The Digha Beach Festival, which will take place from January 13 to 16, promises to be the first of its kind for West Bengal. Located 183 km from Kolkata in the Midnapore district, Digha has always been seen as a quick getaway from the hectic city life of Kolkata. However, the destination was losing out on tourists because of pollution and lack of infrastructure. But now with the festival promising the added attractions of beach sports, food festivals, cultural programmes, music shows, literary events and flea markets, Digha is sure to rise higher on vacation lists in West Bengal. “Such festivals will surely boost tourism opportunities at this destination and we are soon to start helicopter services from Kolkata to Digha,” says Singh.