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Fuel switch drill for sweet shops
- Clean-air campaign eases out coal ovens

For those hooked on kada-paaker sandesh made after a slow churning of the chhana over the coal-fired clay oven of your neighbourhood sweet shop, the state government has fired a smoke alarm.

In a move that could change the way sweets are made in the popular hole-in-the-wall para shops, the state Pollution Control Board (PCB) has responded to a Calcutta High Court directive by undertaking a project to convert all the city’s 950-odd coal and wood-fired traditional confectioneries into oil or gas-fired units.

The Green Bench of Calcutta High Court had a simple question for the state PCB — it asked the government’s pollution-controlling agency what it was doing to improve the quality of air in the city. Featuring high on the clean-air campaign was the need for traditional sweet-making units to switch to more environment-friendly cooking fuel.

The state PCB promptly submitted a report, in which the key component was the changeover from coal ovens to gas and oil-fired ones. A joint Indo-Canadian firm, New Delhi-based India-Canada Environment Facility, was roped in to help in the training and technical expertise aspects of the project, likely to cost Rs 16.39 crore.

The proposed changeover, admittedly, has caught many of the city’s small and traditional confectioners off guard. Admitting that PCB officials had approached them and alerted them about the impending changes, Sweet-Sellers’ Association functionary Indrajit Ghosh said on Sunday that the proposal was being considered. “Members of our association are going to discuss the issue and arrive at a unanimous decision shortly,” said Ghosh.

According to Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) officials, about 200 of the 1,100-plus coal or wood-using confectioneries have shifted their production units beyond city limits and into the suburbs. Some of them have also switched to gas-fired burners.

The report submitted by the state PCB provides the break-up of the expenses involved in converting the coal-fired boilers into oil or gas-fired ones and setting up ceramic kilns. One-fourth of the cost will be borne by the Centre, with a matching grant from the state government. The rest must be borne by the entrepreneur, the report adds.

The PCB says no new confectionery will be allowed to use coal or wood and for industrial units, the flames produced cannot be orange or red in colour. “The PCB has banned all red and orange flame-producing units in the CMC area,” the report states.

The report submitted to the court says the small-scale industries contribute to more than 40 per cent of the air pollution in the city.

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