SUBJECT :December 2014 - Kolkata-2 

  A ‘Rural Farm’ 50 Feet Off The Ground


Dec 29 2014 : The Times of India (Kolkata)


Birbhum Experts Turn 5,000 Sqft Roof Of Multi-Storied Building Into Organic Vegetable Nursery

It's a patch of green, a wondrous vegetable garden that has sprung up at a height of about 50 feet on the fast-expanding concrete maze of neighbouring New Town.With a produce of more than 70kg since it came into existence last October, it is no less than an efficient rural farm.

In fact, it looks cleaner and far better designed and yields only organic vegetables that are supposed to be tastier and healthier than the pesticide-injected varieties that the city consumes. It has been developed by a group of experts from Birbhum which specializes in unconventional farming and the harvest is already being enjoyed by a section of the locals.

Welcome to the terrace of Block 30 at Siddha Garden in Rajarhat, about 5km from City Centre 2. The 5,000sqft space on the roof of one of the multi-storied apartments at the complex has been turned into a vegetable nursery .A team of five farming experts who run a social service platform in Birbhum has been working tirelessly to grow more than 35 kinds of vegetables on the concrete terrace. What they have managed to grow is amazing. Nearly half a dozen varieties of leafy vegetables like notey shak, methi shak, palang shak (spinach), piring shak, several kinds of chilies, multiple varieties of brinjals, tomatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots, onions, beetroots, capsicum, garlic, mustard, flat beans (shim), bitter gourd (karola).

All these are being cultivated in baskets strewn together with bamboo sticks.To reduce the load on the terrace, soil has been replaced with crushed coir which is lighter and use of wa ter is rationed. In all, the farm has 400 bas kets that grow mul tiple va rieties, either simulta neously or one after another in quick succession.

They are placed in side low, semi-circu lar chambers, again made of bamboo sticks.

Every piece of prop in the garden is strictly eco-friendly , according to Kunal Deb, secretary of Mallarpur Uthnau, the social service outfit in Birbhum. “The vegetables we grow are purely organic and we have strictly barred the use of nonbiodegradable stuff. So, our produce is not only healthier but helps the en vironment as well,” said Deb. The farm can produce 8,000kg of vegetables a year.

He wandered into the project quite by chance. A representative of the residential complex chanced upon Uthnau’s farm in Birbhum and was impressed. “He wanted us to develop a terrace garden here and we agreed to act as consultants. It’s a kind of an experiment for the promoter but a very important one.

With farmlands being converted into residential spaces, we would do well to use urban space for farming.

Several countries have done that and we can do it here,” he said. Deb is assisted by Luis Gomez, a Mexican national who now works with him in Birbhum. While Gomez is an expert in urban hydroponic farming, the technique which is being used in the garden, Arun Ram -another member of the group -is apt in developing multiple varieties of indigenous vegetables. They are helped by Bablu Molla and Rakesh Ghosh. The team members said they found it easier to grow the vegetables on the roof than doing it in the rugged ter rain of Birbhum.

So, you have cher ry tomatoes, white brinjals, white and red flat beans and ok ras with eight ridges.

Last week, the farm grew kulfa (purslane) -a leafy vegetable that is no longer grown in Bengal. The garden, say its keepers, promotes biodiversity by attracting birds, butterflies and insects. “In the long run, it will keep the building cool and protect it from rain and heat,“ said Deb.

Experienced in urban farming in Mexico, Gomez believes terrace farms can change the micro-climate of neighbourhoods in Kolkata.“This is an agricultural country , so let us not sever ties with farming.This is the only way you can do it in an urban set-up. Not only can we get our regular supply of vegetables from the roof, we will also be helping the cause of environment by developing them,“ said Gomez.

At present, the garden supplies the bulk of its produce to the staff canteen in the complex. Often, residents come and ask for them.Deb and his team plan to hand over the farm to the promoters. The latter have decided to run it and distribute the produce among residents. “We are yet to decide the mode of distribution. But we are going to run the farm at our own cost for at least the next two-three years. Residents will get the produce for free,“ said Sanjay Jain, managing director of Siddha Group.


Smart policing keeps city going

 Dec 26 2014 : The Times of India (Kolkata)


Disciplined traffic management and efficient crowd control kept Kolkata on the move on a day thousands swarmed the streets. Even though most holiday spots like the Alipore zoo, Nicco Park, Birla Planetarium, Victoria Memorial and St Paul's Cathedral were clogged on Christmas, vehicles and the crowd moved without much obstruction. New traffic regulations did the trick.

Seven regulated zones were created by Kolkata Police in central and south Kolkata to handle the crowd and traffic. While Park Street had four zones, each headed by a deputy commissioner, one each was created for St. Paul's Cathedral, Victoria Memorial, Alipore Zoo and National Library . The police team at each zone included two assistant commissioners, four inspectors and six sergeants.

People started hitting the street since early Thursday morning, when thousands queued up at St Paul's Cathedral.The crowd swelled as the day wore on. But queues moved fairly quickly , thanks to efficient management. “I missed the midnight mass so I wanted to be here on Christmas. Despite the crowd, the lines moved quickly , which was a pleasant surprise,“ said Arko Ray , a Behala resident.

At Birla Planetarium next door, queues spilled on to the road. But the police didn't allow visitors to break out of the lines. Barricades forced visitors to stick to the restrictions.

More than 15,000 visited the Indian Museum on Thursday . The huge crowd forced the authorities to shut down one of the galleries. Alipore zoo turned into a sea of people with over a lakh visitors on Christmas. Queues at the ticket counters were long but they moved quickly .

Park Street wore a carnival look with long queues at restaurants and a huge crowd swaying to music at Allen Garden.Amusic video-album titled `Park Street: A Living Ballad' produced by the Society for Rejuvenation of Park Street (Spark) was released by Nondon Bagchi. “This video features Park Street legends and it is sure to leave a lump in the throat,“ said Bagchi.

The major eateries were all packed and customers waited in serpentine queues through the day . Nitin Kothari, the owner of Peter Cat and Mocambo, told TOI: “People had to wait roughly half an hour even as we stepped up service speed. I must thank Kolkata Police as they have or ganized this year's Christmas celebrations on Park Street very well. “ Flurys executive chef Vikas Kumar said Christmas for his team was “crazy and hectic“. “People queued up from morning and the hottest selling item was plum pudding. Guests have come from all over, even the US, for pudding,“ Vikas said.

Trincas, too, was filled to the brim.“People have been queuing up since morning and the line got longer with time,“ said Dipak Puri. Pramode Bhandari, The Park general manager, said: “There has been a jump in footfall compared to last few years.“ Sixty people were arrested on Christmas Eve for hooliganism and indecent behaviour.


Source: News Papers