The air quality in Kolkata has been exceptionally bad this winter, senior officials of West Bengal Pollution Control Board and State government admitted at an event earlier this week.
A presentation by Niraj Singhal, member secretary, WBPCB, highlighted that in 2018, pollutant (particulate matter 2.5 and 10) concentration in Kolkata remained higher than the national average on 176 days.
A pilot study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute suggests that 37% of particulate matter pollution is because of road dust and construction activities and 26% because of solid waste burning in the city. While a detailed study will be available by mid-2019, experts have suggested covering construction areas with geotextile fabric and installing dust barriers appropriate to the location.
On January 14, the pollution levels in Kolkata plunged to a new low with the ambient air quality index at the Rabindra Bharati University on BT Road touching 500 for successive hours.
West Bengal Environment Minister Suvendu Adhikari, along with senior officials of WBPCB, on Wednesday held a meeting with representatives of real estate firms, different municipalities and public sector undertakings involved in mega construction projects.
Mr. Adhikari said that the pollution control board is equipped with enough laws to issue a closure notice to construction sites which are not adhering to the norms.
Nandu Belani, president of Bengal chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India, who was present at the meeting, assured the Minister that all members will comply with the pollution norms.
The Minister highlighted two circulars issued recently — one by the Kolkata police which bans burning of solid waste and another by the State Transport Department prohibiting the entry of commercial vehicles which are more than 15 years old in the city. He also announced commissioning of 10 vehicles for watering of roads by the State’s Environment Department.
According to the Minister, the debate about air pollution in Kolkata has been triggered only because the State government is transparent and has made data of air quality index available at various places in the city. In November 2018, the National Green Tribunal has imposed a fine of ₹5 crore on the West Bengal government for failing to take steps to improve the air quality of Kolkata and Howrah.