x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Kolkota plans facelift to become 'second London', complete with London Eye

Mamata Banerjee, the newly elected chief minister of West Bengal state, made an election pledge to transform the dysfunctional and poverty-stricken metropolis formerly known as Calcutta, and once the capital of British India, into a world-class city.

NEW DELHI // The Kolkata government has announced plans to transform the congested city into a "second London", complete with London Eye-style ferris wheel.

Mamata Banerjee, the feisty newly elected chief minister of West Bengal state, has made an election pledge to transform the dysfunctional and poverty-stricken metropolis, once the capital of British India, into a world-class city.

"Kolkata was the second city of the British Empire. Why can't our Kolkata be a second London?" she said before yesterday's ceremony to launch the project.

The planned facelift marks the first major urban renewal effort in the state by Ms Banerjee, who became known as "the giant killer" after toppling the world's longest-serving communist government in West Bengal in May.

The bustling city of 15 million, whose name was officially changed from Calcutta in 2001, was a cluster of villages on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River before it became the capital of British India.

Ms Banerjee's transformation will focus on the waterfront along the Hooghly River, which cuts Kolkata off from its twin city, Howrah, once known as the "Sheffield of the East", a reference to the one-time British manufacturing hub.

A "Kolkata Eye" inspired by the London Eye will be built so visitors can get a bird's-eye-view of the city and river from rotating capsules, said Sovan Chatterjee, mayor of Kolkata.

Rows of dilapidated warehouses, most built in the colonial era, line the riverfront of the Hooghly, a tributary of the Ganges.

Mr Chatterjee said: "We have plans to transform the riverfront into a heritage cultural zone as part of the project to beautify Kolkata along the lines of London.

"There will be landscaped paths, places for meditation, food outlets, parks and an art gallery and museum on the 12-kilometre stretch from north to south where the river widens," Mr Chatterjee said.

He said city officials were aiming to complete the work by January 2013.

The pavements will be made of herringbone bricks similar to those used along the Thames river front and lamp posts on the pavements will be replaced with ones resembling those that existed during the colonial era.

The government has also banned billboards around heritage structures, to restore a colonial look to the city's centre.