Dr. Avnish Jolly, Kolkata, 27th February, 2009 :The national draft ambient air standard proposed a limit of five microgrammes per cubic metre as annual average, which means the city has dangerously high levels of this carcinogen, largely emitted by two stroke vehicles. Kolkata needs a bold action plan to combat its toxic air pollution. Government of West Bengal is working hard to phase out old vehicles; green activists claim that Kolkata is fast heading towards disaster due to abnormally high air pollution levels.
According to Centre of Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based organisation working on green issues, revealed that the annual average of Kolkata’s respirable suspended particulate matter exceeded the national standards in 2007 by 1.4 times and, as per the monthly data available, the trend is continuing. The report reviled nearly 65 per cent of Kolkata’s vehicular population and nearly 99 per cent of commercial vehicles are diesel-run.
Sunita Narain Director CSE said that the carcinogenic benzene levels in Kolkata were found in winter of 2006-2007 to be as high as 36 microgrammes per cubic metre, higher than Delhi, which has a larger number of vehicles.
World Bank statistics, the pollution caused by diesel fuel to the city air was more than 2.7 times than in Delhi and 2.5 times of that in Mumbai. Stressing on a few measures necessary to battle air pollution, the CSE study suggested that two-stroke autos should be phased out and the vehicles converted to cleaner LPG fuel.
The report also threw light on the exponential growth of private vehicles, mainly diesel-run transport. Automobile emission is reportedly responsible for more than half of the air pollution load in Kolkata.
Sunita Narain said that the city has an additional problem of very old vehicles—nearly 54 per cent of those on the roads are old and highly polluting and 55 per cent are diesel driven and according to figures available, Kolkata has less than 2,000 km of roads which account just six per cent of the city’s area while Delhi has about 31,000 km of roads—21 per cent of its area and added that on behalf of CSE, we’ll submit a letter to the state government, requesting it to take adequate steps to fight this dangerous evil of air pollution.