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Club rowers oppose fountains in Rabindra Sarobar

Three structures to increase oxygen level of the lake, says KMDA; any obstruction dangerous, say rowing clubs

Debraj Mitra | Published 28.10.21, 09:17 AM
The three newly-installed fountains in the Rabindra Sarobar compound on Wednesday.

The three newly-installed fountains in the Rabindra Sarobar compound on Wednesday.

Pradip Sanyal

Three fountains installed in the Rabindra Sarobar to “protect its flora and fauna” have riled the city’s rowing fraternity, centred around the lake.

The fountains were installed by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), the custodian of the lake, at the Dhakuria end of the waterbody on Tuesday. 


A senior KMDA official said the fountains had been installed to increase the ‘dissolved oxygen level’ of the water. Dead fish were found floating on the surface of the lake even a couple of days ago.

The fountains were spotted by several rowers on Wednesday morning during the practice sessions.

Rowing is a sport where the boat moves backwards, although the rowers look ahead. Any obstruction behind the boat can be dangerous, said rowers. 

“The fountains can damage boats and cause physical harm to rowers,” said Gautam Valechha, the captain of boats at the Bengal Rowing Club. 

By Wednesday afternoon, officials of three clubs in the area — Calcutta Rowing Club, Lake Club and Bengal Rowing Club — came together to protest the installations. 

The three clubs boast of the best rowing infrastructure in the city and the “boats-and-oars” rivalry between them is part of lore. But the fountains seemed to have brought them together.

“Rowing is an Olympic sport. This lake is the only venue where young rowers can practice. An unhindered course is needed for rowing. With these fountains, where will the budding rowers practise now?” said Chandan Roy Chowdhury, secretary, Calcutta Rowing Club and a veteran in the city’s rowing fraternity.

Like all other sports, the pandemic had put brakes on rowing for around 18 months. But over the past couple of months, many rowers are back to practice.

Six rowers from Bengal are scheduled to take part in the selections to earn a slot in the national side for an international junior tournament to be held in Bhopal in November. The junior nationals are also due in Pune next month.

The practice sessions are in full swing. “Even a slight deviation from course can lead to accidents. An earlier fountain in the Sarobar has already made practising for 2,000m races impossible. The new structures will make even 500m races difficult,” said a teenage rower who requested not to be named.

Anirudhha Mookerjee, secretary, West Bengal Rowing Association, has written a letter to the chief executive officer of the KMDA.

“Such installations would adversely affect the future of all male and female athletes from the age group of 11 years and above who are pursuing for excellence in rowing in national and international level on the only water stretch available in the state of West Bengal since last century,” says the letter.

Mookerjee said because of a fountain installed years ago in the stretch of the Sarobar near Menoka cinema hall, rowers cannot practise for 2,000m races.

“If the new installations are permanent, organising and practising for 500m races will be nearly impossible,” he said.

KMDA officials hinted that the fountains were temporary structures but said the protection of the biodiversity of the Sarobar was their top priority.

“We cannot compromise with the precious biodiversity of the waterbody. Right now, we have taken up this issue with all the best available brains in Kolkata. We have got water samples tested. These are seasonal phenomena. The dissolved oxygen level in the water is reduced. We have to infuse more oxygen,” said a senior KMDA official.

Other ways, like running a speedboat through the lake, might also “improve aeration”, they said. But since the Sarobar is a protected biodiversity zone, any diesel-run engine cannot be used there.

Last updated on 28.10.21, 09:17 AM

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