Kolkata, other Bengal cities witnessing high air pollution: CSE

Pollution has gone up with onset of winter and unlocking of economy

Published - December 09, 2020 02:31 pm IST - Kolkata

Vehicles move on a street, amid hazy weather conditions, during a cold morning, in Kolkata, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020.

Vehicles move on a street, amid hazy weather conditions, during a cold morning, in Kolkata, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020.

After a clean Deepawali, Kolkata and other cities of West Bengal are witnessing high air pollution, according to an analysis by the Centre of Science and Environment ( CSE).

“In Kolkata, weekly average level of PM2.5 [Particulate Matter] jumped 14 times from the cleanest week of August to most polluted week of December,” a CSE statement issued earlier this week said.

Experts’ call

While the lower levels of PM2.5 earlier were due to the prolonged lockdown, pollution has gone up with the onset of winter and unlocking of the economy, prompting experts to call for speeding up action on transport, clean fuels in industry, clean power plants, waste management and biomass burning across the region.

The analysis also revealed that there were three days this winter in Howrah and one day in Kolkata when the PM2.5 levels were higher than Delhi as Delhi’s pollution subsided during those days.

“As the weather gets colder and more adverse, the average pollution in Kolkata continues to climb when Delhi’s pollution levels seem to have plateaued. This year on November 16, 17 and 18, Kolkata and Howrah had higher PM2.5 levels than Delhi. On those days, winter peak pollution in Delhi had got lower,” the statement stated.

Avikal Somvanshi, programme manager in CSE’s urban lab team of Sustainable Cities, said the CSE analyzed the air quality of Kolkata, Howrah, Asansol and Siliguri. Real-time data of seven air quality monitoring stations in Kolkata were analysed along with three stations in Howrah; and one each in Asansol and Siliguri under the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQMS). While the weekly average of PM2.5 in Kolkata rose 14 times, it rose in Howrah nine times, Asansol seven times and in Siliguri 11 times.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE, said that it remained to be seen how the pollution level would play out in the rest of the winter but the region cannot afford to lose the wins already made.

Ms. Roychowdhury emphasised that there was need to enforce power plant standards in the larger region, provide clean fuels to the industry, scale up public transport and vehicle restraint measures and manage waste to have a zero waste and zero landfill strategy. “But the peak winter pollution also shows that cities need graded response action plan for emergency response during smog episodes”, she added.

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