'Declare boathouse arch as protected monument'

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM OCT. 5. The Zam Zam Association has urged the Government to declare the arch at the entrance of the Vallakadavu boathouse as a protected monument. In a pressnote issued here today, the association demanded steps to expedite the reconstruction of the boathouse.

The pressnote said the dilapidated buildings which were demolished for renovation were yet to be reconstructed. It noted that the structure dating back to the Travancore era, was steeped in history.

The restoration project which is being carried out by the Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority was held up by repeated technical snags. The project was taken up after the Kerala Sports Council handed over the possession of the boathouse to TRIDA last year.

The Government had handed over the boathouse to the Kerala Sports Council in 1968 for developing it into a recreation centre. A rowing centre was opened there in 1970 with two fibre-glass boats that were hired out to rowing enthusiasts on an hourly basis. However, the rowing-centre was shortlived as the boats were not replaced when they became damaged.

The restoration work involves precision replication of the original structure's their former glory. The Government has sanctioned an amount of Rs. 10 lakhs for the project. The first phase of the project involved the demolition of the dilapidated structures. While the docks, sheds and other structures have been dismantled for reconstruction, the graceful arch which straddles the entrance has been preserved as such. The site was cleared of debris and a team of scientists was deputed to carry out soil testing before work on the substructure began.

But the work encountered problems after the pile drivers ran into a wall of debris. Excavators were pressed into service to remove the underground layer of rubble and the site was again filled with red earth. Fresh problems caused by tidal ingress and rain- induced soil erosion affected the piling work again forcing TRIDA to commission the use of specialised equipment.

The boathouse which fell into neglect was the hub of hectic commercial activity in its heydays during the Travancore era.

A stone's throw from the International Airport in the city, it was built in the 1820s as an important link in waterway for travel and cargo transport from one end of the princely State to the other.

Historical records reveal that the "boattupura'', as it is known to the locals, was used by the stately barges of the Travancore kings. The royal parties which went picnicking in the Veli lake used to set sail from the boathouse. The priests, scholars and nobility who used to come to Thiruvananthapuram from far and near used to alight here.

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