The state’s rowing association has written to the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority saying that it wants to resume rowing at Rabindra Sarobar, nearly five months after the drowning of two teenage rowers during a ferocious Nor’wester.
The West Bengal Rowing Association, to which the three clubs by the lake are affiliated to, wants to resume the sport in the lake from next week.
A letter has recently been sent to the KMDA, the custodians of the Sarobar. A senior KMDA official told The Telegraph that he would be able to comment on whether the permission would be given, only after he goes through the content of the letter.
“We have sent an intimation to the KMDA. We want to resume rowing in the lake from next week abiding by the required safety norms. We will announce the date at a press conference on Tuesday,” said Subhasish Dasgupta, president of the association and a member of Lake Club.
All rowing activities in the Sarobar have remained suspended since the accident on May 21, during which several boats toppled in the lake.
Much of the delay in resumption of the Olympic sport, in it’s only venue in the state, had been attributed to a refusal by the KMDA to allow petrol-powered rescue boats in the Sarobar, citing a bar imposed by the National Green Tribunal.
Based on trials on water, the clubs have held that electric boats are not fast enough to respond to a crisis, like the one that proved fatal on May 21.
A KMDA official said the agency also wanted resumption of rowing.
“In principle, we are in agreement. The clubs have to arrange a trial run with a petrol boat. We had also asked for a comparison of the performances of battery-operated and petrol-powered boats,” the official said. On the latest communication from the clubs about the possible resumption next week, the official said: “We have received a letter. We will take the necessary steps”.
During a September 5 hearing, the National Green Tribunal said they had never restrained the KMDA from allowing petrol-powered rescue boats in the lake.
The NGT’s observations have played the catalyst for the clubs to take the matter in their own hands.
“How long can we wait? Our rowers did poorly in the recently concluded National Games in Ahmedabad. They have not been able to practise for five months,” said Rajesh Agarwal, an executive committee member in the association and a past captain of oars at the Bengal Rowing Club.
Of eight states competing in rowing, Bengal came eighth at the National Games.
“The NGT’s observations have paved the way for the resumption of rowing. We will follow all the safety norms and resume the sport,” said Chandan Roy Choudhury, the secretary of the Calcutta Rowing Club.
Officials of rowing clubs and the association said a clearance from the police had come in the middle of July. Kolkata Police had convened multiple meetings with the representatives of the rowing clubs and KMDA before coming up with a set of standard operating procedures for the resumption of rowing.
Pratik Gupta, a 20-year old rower who has won multiple medals for the state, said he was mulling shifting to another state for practice.
“Several important tournaments are lined up. If I can’t practise here, I will have to move to another state. I hope rowing starts (in the Sarobar) as soon as possible,” he said.