KOLKATA: The Kolkata Municipal Development Authority (KMDA) said on Tuesday that it has moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to allow Chhath Puja rituals in the eco-sensitive Rabindra Sarobar, a 73-acre lake in the southern part of the city that has been plagued by pollution.
The NGT banned Chhath Puja in the waterbody last year to prevent pollution of the lake and the surrounding manicured gardens and sprawling grounds but notwithstanding the restrictions, thousands of people broke in and performed rituals in the waters.
The appeal, made to the NGT three days ago, stated that the Chhath devotees largely comprise women, children and the elderly, and it is difficult to use force during such religious occasions keeping in mind public sentiments.
"We have made an appeal to the NGT for allowing Chhath Puja rituals in the lake this year. There is religious sentiment involved and many women and children gather at the spot. It is difficult to prevent them from entering the lake compound," KMDA CEO Antara Acharya told PTI.
She said the KMDA, the custodian of the lake, will follow whatever directive the NGT gives on the issue.
The NGT is slated to hear the matter on September 17.
Acharya said the agency will take every possible step to protect the lake, which is part of the National Lake Conservation Plan.
The lake is also home to several species of birds and hundreds of migratory birds visit the waterbody every year.
The massive artificial lake and the surrounding grounds are used for several sporting activities -- from rowing and swimming competitions to cricket and football.
Thousands of devotees broke into the lake compound last year on two consecutive days to perform rituals despite the authorities locking all the gates and making arrangements in nearby waterbodies.
Environmentalist Sumita Bandyopadhyay, who filed a contempt petition at NGT about the violations in the lake area on Chhath last year, expressed anger over the KMDA's move.
"This violates KMDA's submission to the green bench on several occasions to do everything for protecting the rich biodiversity and environment of the lake area," she said.
Chhath, celebrated by the people of the Bihari community, is on November 20 this year.