Indian Super League matches face environment hurdle in Kolkata

Environmentalist Subhas Dutta has moved the NGT alleging that the matches to be held at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium could disturb nearby eco-sensitive zone


Atletico de Kolkata is scheduled to play seven home matches at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, which overlooks a lake. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Atletico de Kolkata is scheduled to play seven home matches at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, which overlooks a lake. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

Kolkata: Three weeks before the third edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament gets underway, an environmentalist’s campaign has sparked a dispute over matches scheduled to be held in Kolkata.

The first match in the city is slated to be held on 2 October, when Atletico de Kolkata, or ATK, the local team, takes on Chennaiyin FC at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium—not the usual Yuvabharati Krirangan (or Salt Lake Stadium), which is not available this year.

Kolkata-based environmentalist Subhas Dutta has moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) alleging that the matches to be held at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium could disturb the nearby “eco-sensitive zone” which includes a large lake—home to diverse flora and fauna and protected under the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems.

ATK is scheduled to play at least seven home matches at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium overlooking the eponymous lake.

Moving the matches to the low-key stadium in south Kolkata was in itself a big blow for ATK—the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium can accommodate only up to 26,000 spectators as against 85,000 at the Yuvabharati Krirangan. But ATK had no option because the Salt Lake Stadium is currently being overhauled to host the under-17 football world cup to be held next year.

Matches should not be allowed to be played under floodlights at all at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, claimed Dutta, adding that the lights could “seriously disrupt” the ecosystem of the nearby Rabindra Sarobar lake. Dutta, an activist, was instrumental in getting the lake covered under the erstwhile National Lake Conservation Plan in 2002.

“Ecology has to be cared for,” said Dutta. Rules and guidelines for holding such high profile matches should be framed by experts who understand the sensitivity of the ecosystem of the Rabindra Sarobar neighbourhood, he added. Only daytime matches could be allowed, and that, too, only if the organisers agree to comply with some “stringent conditions”, according to Dutta.

A spokesperson for ATK said the team hadn’t yet received a copy of Dutta’s petition and so was unable to comment on it.

The environmentalist said he had visited the venue and that he had “serious concerns” about the structures being erected to mount floodlights. These “intense lights” could be “extremely hazardous” for the local ecosystem, according to Dutta. He is also opposed to the use of high-powered speakers and fireworks.

The National Green Tribunal has yet to intervene but there is almost no time left to move the matches to a new venue. Even the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium is being refurbished because it has never hosted such high profile matches.

A key state government official said the administration had taken all necessary precaution to avoid any environmental impact on the Rabindra Sarobar lake, but refused to make any further comment until the National Green Tribunal has passed any order. This person, who was closely involved with the process of venue selection for this year’s ISL, asked not to be identified.

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