The Air Quality Index in several automated air monitoring stations in Kolkata had hovered between 200 and 350 (PM 2.5) in the first week of November 2019, which was categorised as ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ but then improved substantially as Cyclone Bulbul lashed the city and washed away the particulate matters in the air over the next few days. A West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) statement said, on November 15, 2019 that although the levels of PM 2.5 during summer and monsoon remain within the prescribed standards, it exceeds during the winter months due to various factors and an air quality action plan has been put in place, to address the situation.
The WBPCB statement attributed road dust as ‘having contributed substantially to air pollution’ in recent times. Ten ‘mechanical sweeping vehicles’ which will sweep dust from road will be procured by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) for containing dust, the statement said. Three water sprinkling vehicles, apart from the 10 to be procured later, are already being put in service by the WBPCB in the eastern parts of the city, a WBPCB official said. The water sprinklers will help in a great way to contain particulate matters gathering in air and bring down air pollution to a great extent, he added.
Kolkata pollution: Cyclone ‘Bulbul’ improves city’s air quality
Cyclone ‘Bulbul’, which wreaked havoc in the coastal districts of West Bengal and disrupted normal life in the city, managed to significantly improve the air quality in the metropolis, a senior official said
November 11, 2019: Heavy rain and gusty winds accompanying cyclone ‘Bulbul’, cleared fine particulate matters from Kolkata’s air, improving its air quality index (AQI), an official of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) said, on November 10, 2019. The city’s air quality became ‘good’ and ‘satisfactory’ after the storm, which was ‘poor’ two days back, according to the WBPCB readings.
While the AQI (PM 2.5) at Ballygunge air monitoring station read 46 at 4 pm on November 10 that at Fort William was 40 during the same period, a WBPCB official said. He said the AQI (PM 2.5) at Victoria Memorial air monitoring station read 46 while the corresponding readings at Jadavpur and Rabindra Bharati University stations were 19 and 54 during the same period.
Environmentalist SM Ghosh said while the air quality of the city improved by 90% after the rain, the phenomenon of showers clearing air pollution is temporary. “As the rain subsides, polluting particles from diesel vehicles, coal-based oven and dust from construction sites will invade the air again,” he said.
Kolkata’s air quality dips to ‘very poor’ category
The air quality in Kolkata has entered the ‘very poor’ category, with the pollution levels in the city breaching the 300 mark for the first time in recent months, a WBPCB official said
November 7, 2019: The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Kolkata was recorded at 343, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category, at the green zone Fort William automated air monitoring station at 11 pm, on November 6, 2019, according to West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) officials. The Ballygunge air monitoring station recorded an AQI of 330 at 11 pm, the official said. This is the first time in recent months that the AQI has breached the 300 mark.
The AQI at the Anand Vihar station was marginally better at 275, which falls under the ‘poor’ category, around the same time. “We are taking several steps to contain air pollution in Kolkata, like sprinkling water at construction sites, stopping movement of over 15-year-old commercial vehicles in the cities of Kolkata and Howrah and banning coal-based ovens in roadside food stalls,” the official added.
West Bengal launches app, to check pollution during the festive season
The West Bengal Pollution Control Board has launched an app, to generate awareness on green norms during the Durga puja festival, which will also allow citizens to lodge complaints against violators
October 1, 2019: As part of its initiative to ensure an environment-friendly festive season, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), on September 30, 2019, launched an app to generate awareness on green norms among Durga puja organisers. The app, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, will also empower citizens to lodge complaints against violation of norms, WBPCB chairman, Kalyan Rudra said.
Listing the guidelines on ‘Poribesh’ app, Rudra said the pollution watchdog has prohibited the use of synthetic paint or colour containing toxic metals, like mercury, cadmium and lead, for idols. There are also restrictions on the use of loudspeakers, between 10 pm and 6 am, with a total ban on disk jockeys (DJs) during idol immersion, he said. All puja committees have been asked to attach ‘noise limiters’ to speakers, Rudra asserted.
At least seven mobile teams of WBPCB officers will be on patrol in the city and its neighbourhood, from 5 pm to 10 pm, with devices to check sound pollution, he stated. The Board has also warned against littering of single-use plastic bags and thermocol plates, while asking the public to raise consciousness on the hazards of pollution. It has also launched a ‘Green Pujo Contest’ for puja committees, to encourage them to follow the norms. Cash awards will be given to the top three eco-friendly pujas, Rudra said.
West Bengal asks construction firms to cover sites, to prevent pollution
West Bengal environment minister Suvendu Adhikary has said that construction firms and agencies have been asked to cover construction areas, to prevent dust particles from spreading in the air in the city and surrounding areas
January 17, 2019: West Bengal environment minister Suvendu Adhikary, on January 16, 2019, said that his department, in collaboration with the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), would monitor the construction activities of buildings and roads and ask for wrapping the construction areas/buildings with geo-textile fabric and install dust barriers that will be appropriate for the location. The dust generated during the construction of buildings, was the principal reason for particulate matter hanging in the air during November to March 2018, he said.
Adhikary told a press meet that only three parameters of the environment – PM (particulate matter) 10, PM 2.5 and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) – remained non-compliant, while nine other parameters were compliant in the city and surrounding areas. The nine compliant parameters included SO2, ozone, CO, ammonia, benzene, lead, arsenic and nickel, he said. The minister said a three-pronged action plan had been launched, to address the issue.
At a meeting earlier in the day between the body of private real estate firms CREDAI, HRBC and the minister and environment officials, the firms were asked to apply water, prior to levelling of earth or any other earth-moving activity, to keep the soil moist throughout the process.
“We are committed in ensuring a 100 per cent clean environment and you will see the three non-compliant environment parameters also coming to favourable situations by 2019 November,” Adhikary said, stressing environment pollution was not as alarming as being projected in certain quarters.
As part of the second step, to curb vehicular pollution, 15-year-old commercial vehicles were being totally stopped from entering the city from January 8, 2019, following a transport department circular issued on December 31, 2018, the minister said. As part of the third step, the Kolkata Police in a circular prevented burning of firewood, tyre, straw and ten teams were constituted, with members of KP, PCB to undertake continuous raids in different parts of the city, he said.
“As part of our aim to stop waste burning and solid burning, we have formed the teams, which will undertake raids in different zones. However, we will provide the people associated with small roadside businesses with incentives, so that they can start business with alternative resources,” he said.
Adhikary said the government has also stopped waste burning at one point of the Dhapa dumping ground and burning of waste at the other point will also be stopped soon, to stop accumulation of particulate matter in the air. He said all the three action plans will fall in place by March 31, 2019 and the ‘results will be seen by next winter, as we will act on a war footing’. The minister said the department will install 10 devices, which will suck dust particles at ten points of the city and five more automated air monitoring stations across the city by March 31, 2019. There are presently two automated monitoring stations at Victoria Memorial and Rabindra Bharati University, BT Road.