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Private protection shield for Lakes
- Bathers and laundry service play havoc with ecology of Dhakuria waterbodies

Concerned over the alarming rate of pollution in the four waterbodies that make up the Dhakuria Lakes, the government is seriously considering the option of deploying a private security agency to protect them. The Lakes are used regularly by people to bathe and wash clothes in. “Regular ablutions are wreaking havoc on the Lakes and people have to be stopped from misusing the waterbodies at any cost,” observed Hirak Ghosh, chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board and principal secretary in the environment department.

Ghosh, who convened a meeting with officials of the CMDA and the Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) on Wednesday at Rabindra Sarobar, later told mediapersons that the government was serious about “protecting the waterbodies from getting polluted”.

The CIT, entrusted with the supervision and maintenance of the sprawling Lakes, strongly recommended that private security agencies be deployed to protect the waterbodies. “We have already spent Rs 1.6 crore to draw up embankment protection measures of the four waterbodies, measuring 73 acres. Some more schemes are in the pipeline to improve the upkeep of the Lakes. But residents of colonies in the vicinity should stop using the Lakes for bathing and washing clothes,” said CIT chief engineer Anil Das.

The CIT, Das said, does not have enough men to deploy for patrolling and protecting the waterbodies. “At the moment, we only have 19 park-and-patrol men, of whom four are quite senior in years. So, a private security agency is the only alternative to protect the Lakes,” he added.

The CIT chief engineer suggested that the funds to pay the agency could be mustered by letting out the two recently-renovated parks — Padmapukur and the Lily Pool — to private firms, which can collect fees on a regular basis from morning-walkers.

Officials of the CMDA also confirmed that a private security agency was the only option if a ban had to be imposed on bathing and washing in the Lakes. They said some additional funds could be earmarked for paying the private agency.

In a related development, the CIT has decided to advertise in leading dailies shortly, inviting private firms to take the two renovated parks on a year’s lease, against an annual payment of at least Rs 15 lakh. “The highest bidder will be awarded the lease and the firm will be allowed to charge fees from morning-walkers and joggers who use the parks,” said a senior CIT official.

According to him, the CIT wants the lessee firm to impose a lump-sum annual fee on individuals who use the parks, instead of a daily ticket. “A survey on the people visiting the Lakes reveals that a majority of them is in favour of paying an annual fee,” the official said.

The CIT proposal says children will be charged an annual fee of Rs 300 only, but adults will have to cough up Rs 500 every year for using the twin parks in the Lakes. The rates have not been decided yet for Safari Park, which is also to be let out to a private firm.

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