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Pond where kid drowned fenced

Several water bodies still without a shield

By Snehal Sengupta in Calcutta

  • Published 18.11.19, 1:55 AM
  • Updated 18.11.19, 1:55 AM
A fence being constructed around the hyacinth-covered pond in New Town’s Eco Park where a four-year-old boy drowned on Saturday
A fence being constructed around the hyacinth-covered pond in New Town’s Eco Park where a four-year-old boy drowned on Saturday Picture by Gautam Bose

The hyacinth-covered pond in New Town’s Eco Park where a four-year-old boy drowned on Saturday was fenced the day after.

There are, however, nine other ponds in the entertainment park which, at least till Sunday, had neither a fence nor a guard in the vicinity to prevent a child from straying into the water.

The family of Sheikh Abez lodged a complaint with New Town police station on Sunday afternoon, alleging negligence by the park authorities.

The police did not register an FIR till late on Sunday. “An inquiry has been started. If we find evidence of any cognisable offence, the complaint will be converted into an FIR,” an officer of the commissionerate said.

“The park authorities were negligent. We want a thorough probe. If need be, we will visit the chief minister’s house,” said Mohammed Hasmad Hussain, a relative of Abez’s

family.

The hyacinth cover, which blends in with the manicured grass on the banks of the pond, was not removed on Sunday. “The pond was to be cleaned on Monday,” said an official of Hidco, which maintains the 480-acre entertainment park. “Water hyacinth and algae pose a nagging challenge. They are cleaned once a month.”

Many suspect that Abez, from Taltala Lane in Narkeldanga, failed to realise that he was stepping into water because of the hyacinth.

Chetan Agarwal, a Phoolbagan resident who had gone to the park with son Deeshan and niece Sanvi on Saturday, said there was no way one could tell the water of the pond where Abez died from the green surroundings.

On Sunday afternoon, at least six men were engaged in erecting a bamboo fence covered with a net around the water body. An official at the site said work had started at 6am.

Debashis Sen, the chairman-cum-managing director of Hidco, said all water bodies in the park would be fenced. “We have formed a two-member committee to suggest how we can discourage visitors from getting too close to any pond in Eco Park.”

An unfenced water body at the park
An unfenced water body at the park Picture by Gautam Bose

The park has at least 11 water bodies. The biggest of them, which spreads across 112 acres and has a maximum depth of 40 feet, was fenced long ago. Security guards and lifeguards are deployed along the banks at regular intervals when the park is open to visitors.

Of the remaining 10 water bodies, all but the one where the child died are yet to get a fence.

The circular pond where Abez drowned is three feet deep, said an official of Hidco. The water body, a short walk from the ticket plaza at gate number 4 of the park, has an island at the centre.

“We never thought that such a terrible thing could happen in such shallow water (referring to the pond where Abez died),” a senior Hidco official said.

He admitted that their main focus was on the 112-acre tank, where visitors take part in water sports such as kayaking and zorbing. “There is a fence around the water body. But many visitors still go dangerously close to the water after crossing the fence for a perfect picture or a selfie,” he said.

An officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate said Abez, his parents and another family from Narkeldanga had entered the park around 1pm on Saturday.

“The group had sat down on the grass near the pond. Mother Sultana Parveen said she realised around 3.30pm that the boy was missing. She called out his name repeatedly but there was no response. They looked around for him and alerted a guard half an hour later. The guard, in turn, alerted the park’s control room,” the officer said.

Divers from the disaster management unit stationed at the park recovered the child’s body around 7pm.

Altogether 135 CCTV cameras are installed at the park. An Hidco official said 21 cameras, all AI-enabled, would be installed near the water bodies. The cameras will send alerts to the control room every time a person crosses the fence around a pond.

‘Thorough probe’

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim, under whose department Hidco functions, said: “It is not clear how the child, who was with his parents, slipped out and reached the pond. It is also unclear why no guard spotted him approaching the water. We will conduct a thorough probe.”

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