Kolkata: Thousands of devotees assembled at Rabindra Sarobar in the city on Wednesday on the occasion of Chhath Puja and offered puja, violating, for the second day, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban against polluting the 73-acre waterbody or bursting crackers at the eco sensitive zone. The violation of the NGT ban had taken place on Tuesday too by a huge number of devotees, who stood in the water, took the ritualistic dip and made prayer offerings to the setting and rising sun, besides bursting crackers and playing music in a high volume.
The NGT, East Zone had, on November 12, refused to entertain a petition filed by the Rashtriya Bihari Samaj, seeking that Chhath puja be allowed again at Rabindra Sarobar this year. Environmentalist S M Ghosh told PTI that around 30,000 Chhath devotees and revellers had gathered at Rabindra Sarobar in the southern parts of the city Wednesday morning to offer puja.
They came in processions, bursting firecrackers and playing very loud music to the accompaniment of drum beats, and he and his team recorded sound pollution in the range of 90 decibel between 8 am and 10 am, Mr. Ghosh said.
The sound level was much higher than the 40-decibel limit set for an eco-sensitive zone like Rabindra Sarobar, which is rich in bio-diversity, he added.
Neither he nor his team could spot a single bird resident or migratory in the lake area after the devotees left, the environmentalist said. The devotees waded into the lake’s water to offer puja and his team found deposits of chemicals in it like solid waste and oily substances, micro particles that included “sindoor” and the residue of fireworks, apart from oil contamination, Mr. Ghosh said.
The NGT, East Zone, in its order dated November 3, 2017, had allowed performing of Chhath for that year only and had directed that there should not be any bursting of crackers or use of loudspeakers. It had also directed the authorities to ensure that the water of the lake did not suffer from pollution owing to offerings like flowers, fruits and other materials.
Mr. Ghosh said he would file a contempt petition at the NGT against the lake’s custodian, the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), and the Kolkata Police for their failure to implement the tribunal’s order. Rabindra Sarobar is covered under the National Lake Conservation Plan of the Government of India.
The NGT had banned the rituals to prevent pollution of the lake and the surrounding manicured gardens and sprawling grounds. The lake is home to several species of birds. It also attracts migratory birds in the winter. Environmentalist Subhas Datta said there was violation of the NGT order, which had prohibited performing of puja rituals in the lake area.
I will soon file a contempt petition, making the state and the police parties to it, as both had failed to implement the NGT order, he said.
An official of the Lake police station said the packets carried by the devotees were checked before they entered the premises in order to find if there were firecrackers in them. The vehicles in the procession were stopped on the road and not allowed to enter the lake premises, he said.
KMDA sources said the police regulated the crowd at the Rabindra Sarobar premises and boards were put up in different corners, informing the devotees about the restrictions while performing Chhath Puja. A detailed report will be sent to the government authorities by this week, they added.
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