May 31, 2009

West Bengal to go ahead with chemical hub project

Kolkata, May 29: With the opposition Trinamool Congress, now part of the central government, having said it would oppose the Nayachar chemical hub project, West Bengal’s ruling Left Front government Friday said it had not received any notice yet from the central government to scrap it.

“The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had given us the green signal to set up the Nayachar project. And so far, we have not received anything from their end which says ‘no’ to the chemical hub proposal,” state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen told reporters here.

He said the West Bengal government is hopeful of implementing the project, located in East Midnapore district, despite the Trinamool Congress’ attempts to thwart it."So long there is Central approval for the chemical hub project at Nayachar, we will go ahead with it. We have no information that the project will be cancelled,"Sen said.“We will go ahead with it for as long as the approval [for the project] is there. Later, if there is a change then we will have to see,” he said emerging from a Communist Party of India(Marxist) State Secretariat meeting.

Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she will fight the chemical project tooth and nail.

Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and party’s central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty said the union government had sanctioned a similar petrochemical hub project in three states, including West Bengal and Gujarat.

“It’s a project which is supposed to be implemented by both the centre and state government. Now it’s time to see whether the union government prevents us from implementing it in West Bengal or gives us the nod to continue.

“If the centre stops our Nayachar project, they should ban all three pending proposals of petrochemical industries that will come up in the country,” Chakraborty said.

“But we think West Bengal has got all the required approvals except the environmental clearance,” he said.

Landslides disrupt toy train service in West Bengal

Siliguri, May 28: Landslides in West Bengal have disrupted the movement of the world famous toy train, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.The famous Darjeeling toy train runs between Siliguri and Darjeeling. 

The train stopped operation from Tuesday as heavy rains and severe landslides washed away a huge portion of the railway track. A huge pile of debris has accumulated on the tracks, halting the operation of the toy train.

"In 80 km route from Siliguri junction to Darjeeling, we have got landslides at 41 spots and total amount of muds and boulders is about 3500 cubic metres. We also have tree fallen on tracks at 16 spots. Out of the 16 spots, two spots are very heavy because very big tree trunk has fallen on track. We have got one location near Ghum where a portion of our track is washed away in between two buildings," said Subrata Nath, director, Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR).

The DHR is trying hard to resume the journey at the earliest, but the service is expected to resume not earlier than seven to ten days."We are trying our best to resume the services between new Jalpaiguri, Siliguri to Kerseong by Saturday. That will cover around 50 km of our track. So around 60 km, we will be able to make operational by this Saturday. And for the other one it may take another seven to ten days," added Nath.

The DHR toy train was started in 1896 by the then British Lieutenant Governor Ashley Eden, offering riders an opportunity to enjoy the majestic beauty of nature along the Darjeeling hills. 

At the beginning, this railway was named as the Darjeeling steam Tramway Co. Later when India gained independence in 1947, the railway was named as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO on December 5 at their 23rd session. 

Darjeeling landslide toll reaches 27

Siliguri,28 th May: With the recovery of three more bodies, the toll in the landslides in West Bengal's hill district of Darjeeling due to Cyclone Aila has risen to 27, police said on Thursday.

"We have recovered three bodies from the debris at Rangiabong under Jorbungalow police station area this (Thursday) morning. One of the bodies has been identified as Pramila Rai, 68," a senior official of the Jorbungalow police station said. He said the teams of Natural Disaster Management Authority have started rescue operations in the cyclone-hit areas.

Meanwhile, State Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen reached Darjeeling Thursday morning to hold meetings with the district administration. He is likely to visit the landslide-affected zones and will also survey the situation there. "Search operations are on in some areas as at least four people are still missing from the Darjeeling district after the cyclonic storm," the police officer said.

According to district administration sources, 14 bodies were found in areas under Darjeeling Sadar police station, six in Jorbanglow police station area and seven in Kurseong sub-division.More than 500 houses were damaged due to torrential rain that started Monday, when Cyclone Aila hit West Bengal and continued on Tuesday.

Nearly 100 landslides took place across Darjeeling and its adjoining areas inconveniencing thousands of residents living in the hilly region. Cyclone Aila created havoc across West Bengal Monday, claiming a total of 87 lives by Thursday. 

Riverbank Developers, IHG to set up hotel in Batanagar

MUMBAI:Riverbank Developers has signed on Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to run the proposed hotel and serviced apartment facility at its Batanagar township project in West Bengal. As part of the initial 15 year deal between Riverbank and IHG, the hotel at Batanagar will be branded under the Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts brand and will have 200 rooms and 75 apartments.

Bata India plans to fast track the completion of Batanagar Township project worth Rs 1300 crore. The township project being developed on 262 acre is promoted by Riverbank Developers, a 50:50 JV between Bata India and Calcutta Metropolitan Group. While the Phase I of the project is slated to be completed in 2011, the whole township is expected to be completed by 2013.

Relief material airdropped in cyclone-hit areas of West Bengal

Barrckpore Air Base (Kolkata), May 28: Helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out relief operation sorties in the cyclone hit areas of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts in West Bengal.

The IAF helicopters dropped relief materials in the areas like Hingalganj, Sandeshkhali of North 24 Parganas district and in Basanti, Gosaba of South 24 Parganas district which is quite close to the India-Bangladesh border.

“We are planning to drop close to 20 tons of load which includes bread, chira (beaten rice) and water for the people who are marooned in the North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts,” said Wing Commander Tapan Srivastava of Air Force Station, Barrackpore.Meanwhile, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she would urge the Central Government to provide more help.

“This is not a time of politics, but I believe this is a time to help the people. I will ask the Central Government to give more relief,” said Banerjee. Cyclone Aila that originated over the Bay of Bengal on Monday caused havoc in many parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

The resultant thunderstorm, tidal waves and flooding forced half a million people to abandon their homes in Medinipur, Sundarbans (located in South 24 Parganas), North 24 Parganas and Hooghly districts.

Millions of people in India and Bangladesh who have been temporarily displaced are in desperate need of water, food and adequate shelter after the cyclone hit the region. It is estimated that cyclone Aila killed at least 210 people and injured over 6,400 in India and Bangladesh.

While hundreds of thousands of residents were evacuated to cyclone shelters, schools, colleges and other buildings, the high winds and floods destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, ravaged crops, killed livestock and damaged roads and bridges.

According to the Bangladesh Government, almost four million people have been affected by the cyclone Aila, with at least 100 dead and hundreds more still missing. While in West Bengal, authorities say that nearly 2.3 million people have been affected. 

Cyclone Aila swallows Sunderbans tigers

KOLKATA, 27th May: It's not just residents of Kolkata who bore the brunt of Cyclone Aila. Forest wardens fear that as the cyclone tore through the Sunderbans flooding the mangrove forests, it may have killed more than a dozen of the highly endangered Bengal tigers.

As the human toll from Monday's cyclone rose to 64, beat officers and range officials in the Sunderbans feared hundreds of herbivores and at least a dozen tigers might have been swept away by the giant waves that lashed the forests. While a tiger had sneaked into the Jamespur village wading through the flood waters and was tranquillised early on Tuesday morning, 20 crocodiles and two spotted deer were found dead. The full extent of the damage will be known only after an assessment by forest teams.
As per the last census, the Sunderbans had 265 tigers. Pintu Mirdha of Jamespur got the shock of his life when he spotted a male tiger crouching in his waterlogged cowshed. Mirdha managed to shut the cowshed door and informed the forest department. But forest guards had to wait for the water to recede to get close to the animal. Neighbours were asked to evacuate as the animal paced up and down the locked cowshed. At around 1pm, when the water level went down during low tide, the male tiger was tranquillised.
"It swam into the village that was left flooded after the cyclone. Since most villagers weren't present at the submerged huts, no one noticed the animal," said Subrata Mukherjee, field director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve.
"A storm like this has never hit the Sunderbans in the last three decades. Going by the extent of damage to the villages, the state of the forest could be terrible. Forests remained under eight feet of water till late Tuesday afternoon. Immediately after Aila hit, it had gone up to 20 feet," said Mrinal Chattopadhyay of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers. "Even if tigers manage to swim to higher grounds, deer and wild boars must have been swept away," he said. Wardens fear that even if tigers survived the giant waves, the lack of prey will certainly kill them.
But some forest officials were cautious. "We shall study the damage once the water level goes down," said Subhendu Bandopadhyay, divisional forest officer, South 24-Parganas. Beat wardens, however, said no assessment would be possible until the waters recede and that could take weeks. By that time many of the carcasses would have disintegrated to nothing.