KOLKATA: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has rejected the Bengal government's plea seeking permission to facilitate Chhath puja at the eco-sensitive Rabindra Sarovar.
The NGT upheld its 2018 order banning Chhath puja at Rabindra Sarobar after environmental activists and wildlife lovers started a movement. The petition was moved by environment activist Subhas Dutta. The activists had earlier moved the Calcutta High Court as well to stop the practice.
Firhad Hakim, the urban development minister, said the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), which appealed the NGT seeking relaxation in its earlier order two days ago, said it would move the Supreme Court.
While the opposition termed the appeal before the NGT as another move by the TMC-led government to woo the Hindi speaking voters before the 2021 Assembly elections, environment activists expressed their concern.
Rabindra Sarovar covers 192 acres of artificial lakes and 7,000 trees. About 200 species of resident and migratory birds have been sighted here.
Despite the ban, hundreds of devotees broke open the gates of Rabindra Sarobar in November last year to perform Chhath puja. They even used crackers and played drums at the Sarobar although the government has earmarked alternative water bodies in the city. The violation in front of law-keepers triggered a huge controversy.
Kolkata police and KMDA officials expressed their helplessness. "The ritual is performed by women. We could not be harsh on them last year. At one point of time, we had to me mute spectators," said an official of Kolkata police.
Taking a jibe at Mamata Bannerjee, BJP's national secretary Rahul Sinha said, "It is shameful that the state government is appealing the NGT for an act which will cause harm to the waterbody and nature around it, instead of protecting the city's beauty. She took nine years to realise Hindi speaking people's sentiment. It is too late."