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Darjeeling municipality starts cleaning hill town after Bimal - Mamata meets

Workers clean garbage in Darjeeling municipality
Darjeeling municipality removed garbage throughout the day today and snapped illegal water connections, hours after Bimal Gurung held a meeting with the civic body chief and councillors asking them to address the issues.
The development comes close to the heels of Gurung’s “best ever” meeting with Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday after which, the chief minister had said they had discussed matters related to keeping Darjeeling clean and green.
Ways to improve the sewerage system in town, making Darjeeling a plastic-free zone and checking on illegal high rises in the civic area were also discussed.
Sources said, Gurung held a meeting with municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai and the councillors at Malidhura here yesterday and asked them to look into the issues. 
Today around 11am at the Darjeeling municipality conference hall, Rai, in the presence of most of the 32 councillors, unveiled the civic body’s plan to solve the problems, even before Mamata left the hills. 
The chief minister left Richmond Hill around 12.30pm. 
Rai spoke about several problems in the civic area and the municipality’s solutions to address those: 

Water supply 
Problem: “There are allegations that some households get uninterrupted water supply while the rest of the town goes dry for most days in a month,” Rai said today.
Solution: He said, there were 19 institutions in Darjeeling, like St Paul’s School, North Point, Army cantonment, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Cedar Inn (hotel) and May Fair Resorts, which get metered water and they pay upto Rs 3 lakh a month for it. 
“For the rest of the people, we only charge Rs 500 a month,” Rai said. “But after our board was formed, we have ensured that water is supplied four to five days every week, instead of 17 to 18 days in a month. We have disconnected about 100 illegal connections in Alubari area during our tenure and 48 lines in St Paul’s area.”
(The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha took charge of Darjeeling civic body in 2009. The present board was also formed by the Morcha in 2011. Before 2009, the GNLF was at the helm of civic affairs.)
Rai said the municipality had started a drive today to disconnect illegal water connections. 
“The drive has started from ward number 1 and we disconnected nine illegal lines today,” he said. Civic officials plan to visit each of the 32 wards in the next few days to check for illegal water connections. 

Garbage
Problem: During off season, Darjeeling generates 35 metric tonne of garbage everyday, while the waste generation is 70 metric tonne daily in the tourist season. 
“Everyday, we start collecting garbage from 3am and complete it by 7am. Residents and hotel owners, however, dump waste in vats after 7am and it cannot be cleared that day. Many people also dump construction material in the vats,” Rai said.
Solution: “We will tell the hotels to keep garbage in containers and empty those when our trucks move around town to collect waste. We are thinking of imposing fines if hotels are found dumping garbage after 7am. We are also looking at installing CCTVs at strategic points,” said the chairman. 

Use of plastic
Problem: Although the municipality banned the use of plastic, people are using it. 
Solution: Rai said: “We will immediately conduct raids on shops to stop the use of plastic. The GTA is also mulling over a proposal to train people in making paper carry bags so that they are available in town.” 
The hill town had banned plastic more than 10 years ago.

Sewerage
Problem: Rai said: “The drains are getting clogged and even though we try to clear them as often as possible, a change in people’s mindset is important. We appeal to the public to refrain from dumping garbage in the drains.”
Solution: Rai said in Chowk Bazar area, many restaurants cook in extended places, which often cover drains. “We will remove such structures immediately, especially from Chowk Bazar area, so that drains are not encroached upon. We will not allow shops to display items outside,” he said. 
“We are also planning to buy more vehicles to collect waste. The municipality has six trucks. We will not allow vegetable vendors to throw waste at all times during the day,” Rai added.

Illegal high-rises
Problem: Rai said: “During our tenure, we admit that four illegal highrises came up. But  there are more than 100 buildings that are beyond the stipulated 11.5m height that were built during the previous board. We tried to dismantle the illegal structures but we don’t have equipment to pull down concrete structures.”
Solution:  Rai said: “We want to clarify that the municipality has never sanctioned any building beyond the 11.5m mark and such buildings are always classified as illegal structures. Bimal Gurung has given a free hand (to us) on the issue and the municipality has started a survey. We will first issue notices (for such structures) and later dismantle them by seeking help from the GTA and the district administration.” 

No-building zone
Problem: A lot of buildings have come in the Batasia-Dali Fatak area. Such structures block the view of the mountains for which tourists come to Darjeeling. 
Solution: Rai said the municipality has passed a resolution saying that buildings in the area have to be 1m below the road level so that view is not blocked. (The order is only for new structures.) 

Property tax
Problem: “Although Darjeeling municipality is considered to be among the richest civic bodies in Bengal, tax collection is low and this is affecting civic services. Only 32 per cent households in Darjeeling were paying property tax when we took charge of the municipality. The figure has touched 50 per cent mark now. But our target is to achieve cent per cent tax collection,” Rai said today.
Solution: “We have started conducting a survey and those households that do not pay property tax will first be served notices. If such a move fails to generate the desired result, we will disconnect water supply and block sewerage lines of those buildings,” said the chairman.
According to Rai, the civic body has decided to make it mandatory for all building plans in town to incorporate provisions for rainwater harvesting. 
“The municipality has also decided to make it compulsory to submit a ‘completion certificate’ once construction of a sanctioned building is over,” he said.

Source: The Telegraph

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