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Rabindra Sarobar water level continues to go down, slush along banks

Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority cites rain deficit; rowers and lake regulars call for corrective steps

Debraj Mitra | Published 18.06.23, 05:19 AM
The dwindling water level at the Sarobar.

The dwindling water level at the Sarobar.

Pradip Sanyal

The water level of Rabindra Sarobar continues to go down.

On March 11, The Telegraph reported how the water level of the 193-acre lake had dipped significantly, posing a challenge for rowers and a threat to its ecological balance.


A visit on Wednesday and conversations with lake veterans suggested the situation had only worsened.

The pile of slush, just visible along the banks three months ago, is prominent now. The marks on the boundary walls suggested the water level had gone further down.

The depth of the water along the banks is usually 5.5 to 6 feet, said rowers.

At multiple places now, it is close to zero, meaning it is difficult to spot water towards the banks. The surface is just slush.

An official of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, the custodians of the lake, attributed the depleting water level to a “rain deficit”.

July and August, the rainiest months in Kolkata, had ended in deficit last year. This year, the rain deficit from April 1 to June 13 stood at over 60 per cent for Kolkata, said a Met official.

But rowers and lake regulars said the KMDA should not depend on the elements alone and called for urgent intervention.

“The problem has worsened. I cannot remember the water level going down at such an alarming rate,” said Ashok Khemka, 76, a resident of Southern Avenue and a member of Lake Club.

“The lack of rainfall is the primary reason. But the KMDA cannot avoid responsibility by blaming the weather. That would be behaving like an ostrich, burying its head in the sand,” said Khemka, who started rowing in the Sarobar in 1967. Khemka still hops on to a rowing boat once or twice a month.

Multiple accounts of old-timers like Khemka pointed out how the Sarobar was once connected to the “Adi Ganga” by a pipeline that passed beneath the Tollygunge railway bridge.

The link was snapped because of the construction of the Metro Railway line. Since then, the water level in the Sarobar has been dependent on seasonal rain, they said.

The KMDA should consider a way to artificially feed the lake, they suggested.

A couple of valves are in place to drain out excess water from the lake. But the water level is much lower than the valves at the moment.

Against such a backdrop, rowing has become challenging in the only venue for the sport in Bengal.

“The rowing boats risk damage if they move towards the banks. The fins (metallic structures fitted under the hull) of rowing boats get stuck in the slush when the oars drift towards the bank. The oars, too, get stuck, which increases the risk for rowers and chances of damage to boats,” said a veteran rower, who requested not to be named.

A meeting on Tuesday called by the West Bengal Rowing Association — involving the Calcutta Rowing Club, Bengal Rowing Club and the Lake Club — discussed the problem in detail.

“A letter will be sent to the KMDA, requesting them to take corrective steps,” said Subhasish Dasgupta, the president of the association.

An official of the KMDA said the problem was limited to the banks.

“The depth of the lake in the middle is around 23ft. It is still over 18ft now. The banks have become shallow for lack of rain. A couple of spells of heavy rain will solve the problem,” he said.

Raising the level of the valves that drain out the excess water and manual dredging of the banks were the steps that the KMDA would take in the coming days, he said.

Last updated on 18.06.23, 05:19 AM

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