| Residents of a south Calcutta housing complex celebrate Diwali with traditional fireworks on Friday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
If crackers made their presence felt only in pockets on Kali puja, Diwali was shaping up to be one big dhamaka.
Till around 9 pm on Friday, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (PCB) had received 35 complaints, with Howrah being the worst hit. There were also reports of loud firecrackers in multi-storeyed complexes in Ballygunge, Bhowanipore and Gariahat.
Shyamal Sarkar, member secretary, PCB, added that the board had filed an FIR against West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences students who were bursting firecrackers in their hostel, next to the PCB office in Salt Lake.
Kali puja, then, could almost be the lull before the Diwali storm. On Thursday evening, the PCB had deployed eight noise pollution-monitoring teams in the city. There was also a special team comprising PCB chairman Sudip Banerjee and other officials to oversee the process and check on areas from where the majority of complaints were received.
When the PCB control room in Salt Lake received a noise-related complaint, it was relayed to the teams on vigil and the local police stations were notified.
The special team made rounds of several areas in south, central and north Calcutta, based on complaints, including Ultadanga, Baguiati, Cossipore, Lake Town, Dum Dum Park, Shyambazar, Maniktala, College Street, Sealdah station, Moulali and Ballygunge Circular Road.
'The complaints were mainly from pockets like Baguiati, Dover Road, Cossipore, Lake Town and Maniktala,' said Sarkar. The crib cause in these areas was mainly bursting of banned crackers like chocolate bombs, dodomas and kali potkas. Dum Dum Park stood out for its loudspeaker noise and for the violation of norms by local clubs in this regard.
Between 5.30 pm and midnight on Thursday, the PCB received 59 complaints, higher than last year's 40. The PCB claims it was due to the toll-free number put in place during Durga puja. The 1600-33-3390 number is a permanent one for any environmental complaint.
In the Calcutta Police area, Muchipara, Maniktala, Dover Road, Ballygunge and Cossipore topped the complaint list. Under the state police, there was Uttarpara, Howrah, Baranagore, Kasba, Barasat and Baguiati. Some housing complexes in Salt Lake and Ballygunge ' the latter hosting VVIPs ' were also offenders.
'Baguiati and Howrah suffered decibel violation,' said PCB officials. Traditional trouble spots like Behala, Jadavpur and Birati remained quieter than past years. In Salt Lake, too, the decibel level was lower than usual. The PCB claims writing to 'each and every' block secretary helped.
'The situation was certainly better than before,' felt PCB chairman Banerjee. 'The city only has problems in pockets and on the fringes. We received full co-operation from state and city police.' The next step, felt Banerjee, was to involve the local clubs and increase awareness. 'For instance, installation of a sound limiter is mandatory for every puja, but few organisers are aware of it.'
People should also be made aware of the Supreme Court order banning crackers after 10 pm, felt a PCB official.