Park Street, the crown jewel of the city’s party scene, is among three neighbourhoods chosen for a pilot project to untangle the jumble of overhead cables after chief minister Mamata Banerjee called them an eyesore. A group of ministers set up to regulate how cabling is done across Calcutta has decided that Park Street will have a tray-like duct running along the pavement for cable television and telecom operators to take their wires through a common channel. The ducts along Alipore Road and Belvedere Road, the other two places selected for the project, will be underground. Mayor Sovan Chatterjee revealed the plan while replying to a question from a councillor during their monthly meeting at the headquarters of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) on Wednesday. “We have chosen Park Street for a pilot project. We had a meeting regarding this around 15 days ago with the urban development minister (Firhad Hakim),” he said. Hakim and Chatterjee, who is also the minister for housing and fire services, are part of the group looking into possible solutions to the challenge of cabling without causing visual pollution and posing a threat to public safety. Metro had first flagged the anarchy of overhead cabling in a report published on August 31, 2017. Mamata’s acknowledgement came at a gathering of multi-system operators (MSOs) this April. “A network of cables dangling from lamp posts spoils the beauty of the skyline. The government will shortly come out with a plan to run the cables used by all MSOs, Internet service providers and the telecom industry through overhead conduits. We will need your cooperation when this happens,” she said at Cable Summit 2018, an event at Netaji Indoor Stadium attended by 10,000 cable operators. The city has at least seven MSOs that transmit cable TV signals through cables running overhead. More than 12 broadband service providers use the same method to reach their customers. In Jadavpur, Kasba and Garden Reach, even electricity and telephone cables run overhead along some stretches. In January, 18-year-old Mohammad Tausib Alam died of head injuries after his two-wheeler got caught in a heap of cables lying on the east-bound flank of the Park Circus No. 4 bridge. Mayor Chatterjee said many of the cables running overhead in various localities were no longer in use. “Of every 100 cables, 10 are defunct. But the CMC is not an expert in identifying defunct cables, although we are all aware of how they are making the skyline ugly.” Hakim confirmed over phone that the conduit for cables running along Alipore Road and Belvedere Road would be created underground. “All overhead cables have to pass through this duct. For Park Street, we are planning to have a surface duct on the side of the pavement through which the cables can pass.” The presence of several underground utilities on Park Street is the reason why the cable conduit will be laid on the surface , Hakim said. An official said the three neighbourhoods where the pilot project is to be implemented were chosen on the basis of pavement access. “A pavement filled with hawkers would be challenging in terms of building underground conduits or creating a surface duct.” New Town has underground conduits for cables. At Sector V, there are some stretches where cables run underground. The Nabadiganta Industrial Township Authority that administers Sector V is building more such ducts. Mayor Chatterjee said New Town and Sector V had the advantage of being newer townships with civic lessons to learn from the problems faced by an old city like Calcutta.
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