Rabindra Sarobar is poised for a tryst with eviction, followed by a date with beautification. With illegal settlers to be finally evicted by November, Bengal's only national lake is set for a complete makeover, promises the Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT).
The cash-strapped controlling agency of the Dhakuria Lakes is ready to hand over a major portion of the green zone to private developers.
'We are working on a public and private participation (PPP) scheme for maintenance and beautification of the Lakes,' state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya told Metro on Monday.
State urban development secretary K.S. Rajendra Kumar said the department would soon invite 'expression of interest' from real-estate companies and agencies with experience in developing big parks and waterbodies and ensuring their commercial utilisation, too.
'The character of the Lakes will not be altered. All projects will be based on the theme of the beautiful Lakes and reflect the culture of Bengal,' stressed Dulal Banerjee, official on special duty, CIT.
'Private developers will be handed over 77 acres of the 119 acres and 70 acres out of the 73-acre waterbody for beautification and commercial purposes for a period of three years,' explained Banerjee. 'The private firms are welcome to commercially benefit from the development schemes they undertake.'
The move to approach private parties is aimed at mopping up revenues for the fund-starved CIT. 'Our annual income from leased-out areas and Nazrul Mancha ranges between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 40 lakh. But the annual expenditure amounts to Rs 70 lakh, including salaries of the 55 staff members engaged in maintenance of the Lakes. We are expecting to garner Rs 80 lakh under the PPP scheme,' said a CIT official.
Among the refurbishment steps the CIT has decided to undertake are:
Introduction of entry fees to the Sarobar area
Recovery of maintenance fees by allowing 'well-designed and matching green' billboards inside the Lakes
A food park with small kiosks serving different kinds of cuisine, but without any permanent structure
Different types of gardens with a nursery to sell flowers, saplings, gardening kits and other accessories
A large aquarium with different kinds of fish
A children's park with various entertainment facilities
Boat ride on the Padmapukur and Lily Pool.
The green lobby, however, is seeing red over the development drive. 'We shall oppose this, considering the interests of morning-walkers and others who regularly use the Lakes,' said environment activist Bonani Kakkar.
Members of the Rabindra Sarobar Nagarik Committee have already started a signature campaign among morning-walkers to block the entry of private players.