Flyover Too Close For Comfort, Say Kolkata Residents

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Kolkata: That a government could approve and go ahead with building a mid-sized flyover within touching distance of houses of residents has to be seen to be believed.

And yet, looking up from under the eastern arm of the Vivekananda flyover — that did not collapse — one can see that there is no space at all between the flyover and houses, numbering 1 to 42 on Vivekananda Road. While the air conditioners on some of the older multi-storied buildings were compressed against the eastern part of the flyover, the arms of the pillars — technically pier caps and post-tensioning brackets — are stretched over the balconies of these building, virtually entering the living rooms.

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For instance, Number 25A on Vivekananda Road, which belongs to one “Dr Burman” according to the local residents, has the entire right arm of the bridge set over its terrace. Should eastern arm of the bridge collapse — which can not be ruled out according to the government engineers — it will fall on the balcony of 25A. As of Friday evening, the police have asked residents of at least six houses — belonging largely to the city’s Marwari community — to evacuate

“I really would not have believed that one can plan a giant flyover on the narrowest of spaces like this, unless I come here,” said an engineer of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation while photographing the area.

Local residents, however, have been objecting to the construction of the flyover since 2012, soon after Trinamool Congress (TMC) came to power. A writ petition was filed in the High Court seeking a stay on work after the TMC initiated work.

“During the Left Front’s time, a few of the pillars were constructed but the work was stopped due to objection from the locals. When the TMC started work, we moved the courts but the work continued and the case died a natural death,” said a local businessman.

The residents claim that Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim later assured them that the length of the pier cap would be reduced by 25 centimetres. While on the western half of the flyover, which collapsed, the length was reduced, the eastern half was not touched, said Mr Das.

“Why would someone construct a flyover virtually through our bedroom?” asks a resident Tapan Agarwala.

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