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Tradition vs Environment in Kolkata! Havan at Sarobar sparks row

  • A havan will be performed at Kolkata's Rabindra Sarobar in Lion's Safari Park
  • This has stirred up concern and protests from environmentalists, bird watchers, and morning walkers
  • The organizers, however, have claimed that this is to purify and not pollute the park

30 Apr 2023
Tradition vs Environment in Kolkata! Havan at Sarobar sparks row

The Rabindra Sarobar of Kolkata has seen many controversies of tradition vs environment. Be it Chhath Puja or Diwali, environmentalists have always criticized such practices in the lake area as it disturbs the flora and fauna. A plan to conduct an hour-long havan at Lion's Safari Park in Rabindra Sarobar has stirred up new concern and protests from environmentalists, bird watchers, and morning walkers. They are worried about the adverse impact of lighting a fire in a biodiversity hotspot, which could harm the environment and scare away migratory birds.

The organizers of the havan claim that the ritual involves a small fire meant to purify the atmosphere, rather than pollute it. However, people are skeptical about this and have expressed their reservations about the event. The police and the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), which is responsible for the Lake, have asked the organizers to ensure that the fire is small and does not emit too much smoke.

Morning walkers and environmentalists are unhappy about the proposed havan being held at the Lake, which is a protected area where all religious and social activities are prohibited under an order issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 15, 2017. The order prohibits any puja, community picnic, or other social events in and around Rabindra Sarobar Lake.

Environmental activist Bonani Kakkar has written to the KMDA chief, Firhad Hakim, seeking action to stop the violation of rules framed and enforced by the agency. She hopes that appropriate action will be taken to preserve the sanctity of Rabindra Sarobar as a neutral public space.

The plan has also raised the concerns of birders who have pointed out that the proposed location for the havan has emerged as a birding paradise. Various bird species such as the brown-breasted flycatcher, chestnut-winged cuckoo, cinereous tit, forest wagtail, green-crowned warbler, Indian blue robin, Indian paradise flycatcher, Indian pitta, rufous woodpecker have been spotted in the Safari Park. Fire and smoke can disturb the habitat, and it could harm migratory birds.

The Lion's Club members, who are organizing the havan, called the fears unfounded. They have set up an astronomical garden with 90 varieties of plants, meant to dilute the negative influence of planets on humans. Instead of wearing stones, they are urging people to pray before plants to ward off evil while connecting with nature. Monks have been invited to bless the garden, and the havan is meant to purify the environment, not pollute it.

The club members claim that the police and KMDA have asked them to keep the flame small, and they intend to do so as they care for the flora and fauna in the area. They believe that people are making a mountain out of a molehill.

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