Rowing in the Rabindra Sarobar in south Kolkata, where two teenage rowers drowned during a storm last Saturday, will be suspended till police draw up a standard operating procedure in consultation with the disaster management group, a meeting at Lalbazar decided on Friday.
Representatives of the three rowing clubs around the Sarobar — Bengal Rowing Club, Calcutta Rowing Club and Lake Club — Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) and the state disaster management department attended the meeting, which was called by police commissioner Vineet Goyal.
The KMDA is the custodian of the Sarobar premises.
Everyone at the meeting agreed that a motorised boat should be at the lake in a ready-to-use condition at all times to respond to an accident like last Saturday’s.
The father of Souradeep Chatterjee, one of the two teenagers who drowned last Saturday, was at the meeting. “We have asked the clubs to stop all forms of rowing in the lake till we come out with an SOP,” said an officer at Lalbazar.
The police are expected to issue the SOP at the earliest but there is no word yet on a timeline.
Until recently, rescue boats were kept in the lake during tournaments. The club hosting the tournament would seek such boats from the army or the police. But in the middle of May, the KMDA sent a letter to the rowing clubs citing a ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on diesel boats in the lake.
The KMDA had prodded the clubs to use battery-powered boats.
At Friday’s meeting, club representatives said procuring battery-powered boats was not possible at short notice. They also expressed doubts over the efficacy of such boats, following which there was a general consensus on diesel boats, said participants.
“We cited examples of various other lakes in India where rowing tournaments take place. From Dal Lake in Srinagar to Sukhna in Chandigarh, diesel boats are used in regattas everywhere,” said a member of a rowing club.
KMDA representatives said they would request the NGT to allow a diesel-powered rescue boat in the lake.
“Human life is of paramount importance. If the clubs feel there is no alternative to diesel-powered motorised boats, we may approach the NGT for a leeway,” a KMDA official who attended the meeting told The Telegraph.
An official of a rowing club who was at the meeting said the police commissioner asked whether having two rescue boats would be better.
During tournaments, with the boats came personnel trained in operating them. Now, the clubs are mulling to train their employees or hire men from professional agencies.
The police also urged the clubs to track weather. “If there is a sudden change in weather, they should stop an event if needed,” said an officer at Lalbazar.
Last Saturday, boats were in the water despite an alert of a storm from the Met office. A section of rowers said they had taken the boats out when the sky was clear.
“The meeting was very positive. We will wait for the SOP,” said Debabrata Datta, joint secretary of Lake Club.