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Rowing nod in Rabindra Sarobar linked to trial of petrol boats

KMDA to test boats’ impact on environment before the go-ahead

Debraj Mitra, Subhajoy Roy | Published 15.09.22, 06:52 AM
Rabindra Sarobar is the only rowing course in West Bengal.

Rabindra Sarobar is the only rowing course in West Bengal.

File picture

The resumption of rowing in the Rabindra Sarobar lake was stalled again on Wednesday.

A meeting of an “extended expert committee” was convened by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), the custodian of the water body, to decide on the use of petrol-powered rescue boats in the lake.

At the end of the 90-minute meeting, the clubs were asked to write to the KMDA seeking permission to use petrol-powered boats for trial.

“The condition of the water before and after the use of petrol boats will be tested. The levels of sound emitted by the boats will be measured, too. If the results are satisfactory, we will give permission to use them,” said an official of the KMDA.

Representatives of the rowing clubs on the Sarobar premises said they were ready with rented petrol boats and expected a nod on Wednesday night.

The process of writing another letter, getting a reply and then conducting a trial will only delay the resumption of the sport, they said.

Rabindra Sarobar is the only rowing course in West Bengal.

On May 21, two teenage rowers drowned in the lake after their boat toppled during a storm.

All rowing activities in the Sarobar has remained suspended since the accident.

Kolkata police have convened multiple meetings with representatives of the rowing clubs and the KMDA before coming up with standard operating procedures for the resumption of rowing. But one thorn — use of petrol-powered rescue boats — has stalled the resumption of rowing.

While the KMDA has barred the use of petrol boats citing an order from the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the clubs have contended that battery-powered boats are not fast enough to respond to a crisis, like the one that proved fatal on May 21.

Only petrol boats have that capability, they contended.

The clubs then approached the KMDA to allow them to use petrol boats, which can move at high speeds.

The KMDA had sought permission from the NGT for the use of petrol boats.

On September 5, the issue came up before a bench of the NGT. The bench said they had never restrained the agency from allowing petrol-powered boats in the lake.

The bench also asked the KMDA to convene a meeting of the expert panel to decide on the issue.

Wednesday’s meeting was convened in the wake of that order. The expert committee is chaired by Kalyan Rudra, chairperson of the state pollution control board.

A scientist from the Zoological Society of India and a representative of the state biodiversity board are among its members. Subhasish Dasgupta, who represented Lake Club at the meeting, said he had proposed holding the trial on Friday.

“But they insisted on the letter first. We will try to send the letter on Thursday. But it will further delay the resumption,” said Dasgupta, vice-president of the West Bengal Rowing Association.

Chandan Roy Chowdhury, secretary of the Calcutta Rowing Club, said petrol boats have in the past been “tried and tested”.

“We want the resumption of rowing at the earliest,” he said.

The 36th National Rowing Competition is due in Ahmedabad from September 26 to October 3.

The association had in a letter on September 8 appealed the KMDA to make special provision to allow the members of the Bengal contingent headed for the competition to practise in the Sarobar.

Last updated on 15.09.22, 06:52 AM
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