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Grand plan for great lakes

Two waterbodies at two corners of the city, both lying wasted and unused. But a united move is gathering force for their revival, reports Subhro Saha

think rabindra sarobar in the evening and you think forlorn and forbidding. Think Subhas Sarobar anytime and you think obscure and under-utilised.

Now, there’s a grand plan falling into place to change the way these two dominant waterbodies of two opposite parts of Calcutta are treated and talked about.

Architect Dulal Mukherjee’s dream project of creating a serene, eco-friendly and socio-culturally vibrant environment by resuscitating Rabindra Sarobar, Subhas Sarobar and their surroundings has gained vital ground. NGOs Concern for Calcutta, Public and other green bodies have taken the lead to give concrete shape to the design solution for the revival of the lakes, in conjunction with the ministries of environment and urban development, and the CMDA.

Both the lakes have suffered “complete ecological degradation” and the prescription for salvation stands on three pegs – recreational, cultural and sports-oriented activities; generation of employment and income; eradication of anti-social elements from the vicinity.

Rabindra Sarobar

Area — 192 acres; Waterbody — 73 acres; Water:Land ratio — 1:1.63

Location and character: “The main growth of the city is towards the south, and for south-bound movement along Southern Avenue or Lansdowne Road, Rabindra Sarobar’s presence is impossible to miss. But the look is sad and forlorn and the popularity of the lake as a gathering place has lost ground”

(Dulal Mukherjee)

The problems:

Lack of drainage along the road on the southern bank leads to waterlogging.

Unrestricted thoroughfare of vehicular traffic from Gobindapur to Buddha Mandir

Existing public conveniences in pathetic state.

Pathways in deplorable condition.

The 150-odd lampposts insufficient to ensure safety.

Development is fragmented. A large number of clubs, associations and sports councils have been allocated parts of the ill-maintained waterbody.

The canteens/kitchens dump their waste in the water.

Analysis of water samples from the lakes shows high bacteria profile, high pollution level towards the northern and western sides, absence of heavy metals.

The prescription

All sporting activities to be located towards the north and south boundary with parking lots near the lake, and its immediate surrounding area totally free of vehicular movement.

The stadium to house training institutes for athletics, football, cricket… Existing clubs pressured to augment their sporting activities.

Existing waterbody to be restored and surrounding areas artistically landscaped. Cycling and roller-skating tracks can be core attractions.

All islands to be upgraded with multiple usage – like a small but international-quality aquarium, food-courts in stylised, semi-urban form. Floating fruits and flower market could be installed on wooden decks retaining and upgrading the original landscape.

Water sports and paragliding from man-made sandy beaches, kite-flying, fireworks; movement by horse-drawn carriages, golf carts or soft-wheel wagons in vehicle-free zone.

Recreational zone to be created around Nazrul Mancha.

West end corner to provide parking, food court, performing arts, exhibitions…

Last word:

“The architect has highlighted the emerging importance of Rabindra Sarobar in the context of allied development around the lakes in his appraisal. The green lungs of south Calcutta could well become the second Esplanade of the city if public participation can be enhanced. However, while inviting any private partner to execute the design solution and raise money through rides and entry fee, we have to be careful not to violate the essential open and Maidan character of the premises.”

(CMDA CEO Alapan Bandyopadhyay)

Subhas Sarobar

Area — 97.9 acres; Waterbody — 39.5 acres; Water:land ratio – 1:1.48

Location and character: “Most Calcuttans don’t know much about Subhas Sarobar, except that it’s somewhere in Beleghata. But the EM Bypass, Hyatt, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals and Swabhumi have given the derelict, under-utilised lake fresh hope”

(Dulal Mukherje).

The problems

Boundary wall around the lake premises partially damaged.

Unrestricted thoroughfare of vehicular traffic on existing paved road.

Existing three toilet blocks lack maintenance.

Pathways in appalling condition.

Lamp-posts inadequate to ensure safety.

Green areas remain unattended.

Fragmented development. Numerous clubs, associations and sports councils have been allocated parts of the water space

Two fountains, a swimming pool allotted to West Bengal Sports Authority and another swimming pool maintained by CIT.

Canteens/kitchens on the premises dump waste in lake water.

Analysis of water samples shows high bacteria profile.

Pollution level high towards the north and west of the lake. High algae bio mass due to excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in water.

The prescription

The shape of the lake is ideal for surfing. The island can be developed as a waterworld with dolphin shows.

Existing swimming pool upgraded to national level. New pools of international standards to be constructed, with comprehensive training facilities

Existing playground to be improved and the surrounding area converted into a covered gym or an open playing arena with a good drainage system, changing rooms, toilets.

Every square inch of space should be utilised for sports and healthy recreation, boating, kite flying, roller-skating, rock-climbing, aero-modelling, horse-riding.

A cable car ride could become a major attraction.

Sports institute for rare games.

Children’s point, exhibition and performing arts centre.

Yuba Bharati Krirangan upgraded from inside and outside to provide training in various sports, as an extension of sporting activities.

Last Word

“Strategically located at the centre of Calcutta, Salt Lake and Rajarhat, and being close to the Salt Lake Stadium, Swabhumi, the SAI complex and a five-star hotel, the lake can surely be developed as a tourist destination. Once the bypass from Chingrihata to the airport is opened, the stretch of the EM Bypass in front of the stadium will see a significant reduction in the load of vehicular traffic, facilitating development further. If all the adjoining elements can be integrated, Subhas Sarobar could be a winner.”

(Former Yuba Bharati Krirangan CEO Saumitra Ray).

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