Kolkata solar project under shadow

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A proposal to set up a solar power harvesting centre on Dhapa, a part of the Eastern Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), is awaiting the approval of the West Bengal government which is keen to project Kolkata as a green city.

However, this proposal may run into hurdles as it involves change in land-use plan of the fragile EKW eco-system. Vegetable farming has been undertaken here for decades and presently an estimated 40% of the city’s vegetables come from these areas.

The proposal is to utilise the unhindered sunshine in this area to generate 1.5 MW of solar power, without disturbing the vegetable-growers. The panels would be mounted on steel structures — around 10 feet above the ground of the vegetable-patches in a staggered manner. The project also aims at conserving water by controlling evaporation from the fields. This would be a pilot-project with a scalability potential of 100 MW.

 However, Dhrubajyoti Ghosh a former chief environment officer, whose name has now become synonymous with the EKW conservation, feared that this project would affect the farmers’ livelihoods. “ These structures are bound to affect vegetable-farming of the cultivators, whose numbers stood at around 2,500 at the last such census done in 1986,” he said, adding that this would change land-use of this area.

Ajanta Dey, Joint secretary of Nature, Environment and WildLife Society said that consultation with community-stakeholders was crucial for such projects , as part of the environmental governance framework”.

The Dhapa proposal is part of a larger Rs 40 crore pilot project now being considered towards a greening of the city. The other components are “ tapping solar power to light 3055 street and park lights in the city”, and installing 750 KW of `solar roof’ atop KMC markets and buildings. The plan is to harness maximum possible solar energy utilising the land possessed by KMC – atop street light poles, markets buildings and garage roofs. These may not face any problems.

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