Three rowing clubs have written to the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), seeking permission to use “petrol engine operated” rescue boats and resume rowing in the Rabindra Sarobar.
The KMDA is custodian of the south Kolkata water body.
The clubs have sought a relaxation of what they said is a ban — imposed by the National Green Tribunal — on the use of petrol boats in the lake.
The letter, also signed by the secretary of the state rowing federation and addressed to the chief executive officer of the KMDA, was sent on July 16.
“The rowing fraternity explained in the meeting based on their experience during trials... it could be concluded that options available, other than petrol-operated engine, cannot generate the required speed for the size of the boat needed to ensure safety and security of rowers,” said the letter.
Two teenage rowers who were practising for a school regatta drowned in the Rabindra Sarobar during a squall on May 21, prompting a blanket ban on rowing in the lake till safety protocol was in place.
The deaths could have been avoided if a petrol-powered speed boat was pressed into service. But the boat was lying defunct because of a ban imposed by the NGT.
The police had on June 7 come out with a set of standard operating procedures for the resumption of rowing. But the issue of rescue boats has stalled the resumption.
“We have received the letter. We will forward the same to the NGT,” said an official of the KMDA.
The letter follows a meeting between club officials, police and KMDA on July 15.
After the police came out with the SOP, multiple trials of electric boats have been held in the lake.
Lake Club organised at least two such trials. The Calcutta Rowing Club and Bengal Rowing Club have been in touch with boat makers.
A rescue boat has to complete one stretch of the entire rowing course, which spans around 900m, in 30 seconds to one minute, according to club officials.
“But none of the battery-operated boats tested came even close to that mark,” said an official of Lake Club.
Enclosed with the July 16 letter is a copy of another letter from the secretary general of the Rowing Federation of India, which provides details of “15 water bodies spread across India where practice and championships for rowing are held with the aid of speed boats with fuel-operated engines”.
The venues mentioned include Sukhna in Chandigarh, Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad, Upper Lake in Bhopal and Dal Lake in Srinagar.
“Across the country, rowing and fuel-operated rescue boats cannot be alienated. We hope the permission to use petrol-powered boats comes soon and rowing resumes in the lake," said an official of the state rowing association.
The Rabindra Sarobar Lake is the only rowing venue in Bengal.