Wednesday, July 28

After three decades, Kolkata set to get back Rawdon Square

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Rawdon Square, a three-acre green zone with a sprawling water body that was locked up and allowed to decay for over three decades, is finally being revived and restored.

The square, located between AJC Bose Road to the east and Rawdon Street to the west, had shot into limelight in the late 1980s when a proposal to convert it into a cultural-cum-shopping complex by the Jyoti Basu government was bitterly opposed by green activists and the opposition led by Mamata Banerjee, then a feisty Congress leader. The project was dumped after Banerjee sat on a dharna following a clash with the police in which 50 Congress activists were injured. Rawdon Square was thereafter locked and left to rot.

Two years ago, Kolkata Police and KMC attempted to convert the square into a parking lot. But the move was foiled by NGO Public that moved the National Green Tribunal. At the time, the tribunal ordered its restoration. That work has started at long last.

“The long-forgotten Rawdon Square will be given back to the city in mid-2020. We will return an asset to the city. It will be a nature park with minimal intervention. We will try to ensure that the flora and fauna are not disturbed,” a senior official of Kolkata Municipal Corporation told TOI.

Around 70 trucks of construction debris that had been dumped in the disused park from neighbouring construction sites has been cleared. There is still more debris and rubbish that has to be removed. Piles have been driven along the edge of the 2.5-acre water body to prevent soil erosion. Work is currently under way to excavate the water body and provide an optimum depth. Next, the remaining area will be cleared, plantations carried out and landscaped with undulating lawns, a zig-zag jogger’s track and seating areas.

Pile caps and construction debris dumped along the central line of the pond when the Kolkata Kala Kendra project was shelved had created a bund that split the water body into two halves. While excavating earth, silt and rubbish deposited in the pond, project in-charge Debasish Sil from KMC’s project management unit felt it prudent to retain the bund and convert it into an embankment with a jogger’s track. “The boulders are too heavy to lift and transport elsewhere,” explained Sil.

The detailed project report for the revival of the square was prepared just over a year ago and sent to state pollution control board for finding in December 2018. KMC MMiC (environment and heritage) Swapan Samaddar took the initiative of getting the excavation of the water body approved under the state government’s flagship Jal Dharo, Jal Bharo scheme. The depth of the water body that was around 7ft is being increased to 11ft.

“It should take another 7-10 days to complete the excavation work. Once this is over and the ground cleared of debris, earth will be transported in to create a rolling landscape with jogger’s track, seating area, trees and shrubs,” explained Sil. That could take another six months, pushing the park’s inauguration to around mid-next year. “For years, it had become an antisocial den after dusk with drug addicts and other miscreants taking refuge in the square,” said a local resident.


Source: Times of India

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