There is hope yet for a city desperate for a breather, with the state pollution control board (PCB) embarking on the biggest-ever drive against polluting units, shutting down 43 offenders in Tangra, Tiljala and Topsia.
These small factories were found to have been “contributing in a big way” to the air-pollution load of the city for the past 10 years and were shut down after they failed to convert their coal boilers to furnace oil-fuelled ones, as per a PCB directive.
The Board had slapped switchover notices on 109 small-scale units in town, with several located on the eastern flank of a city failing to keep its pollution levels under permissible limits.
It had instructed all small-scale rubber, dyeing and bleaching units to convert their boilers. “These units had been using coal for their boilers and were polluting the air. We have asked them to convert to oil to ensure a drastic drop in the suspended particulate matter in the air we breathe. But the 43 units which we have closed down failed to go by our guidelines,” said Ravi Kant, member-secretary of the PCB.
In order to encourage the owners of such units to be more environment-friendly, the PCB had also announced financial sops to those who would effect the switchover.
“Despite our offer of bearing 50 per cent of the cost of conversion, these 43 units have refused to convert their boilers. So, we have had to close down these units,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer of the PCB.
The Board has recently launched a project, with financial back-up from Canada, in a bid to check air pollution in the city and its suburbs.
“We can bear 25 per cent of the conversion cost and another 25 per cent will be funded by the project. The rest of the cost for the switchover must be borne by the owner of the polluting unit,” explained Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist of the PCB.
According to Chakraborty, the Rs 16.49-crore, Indo-Canadian project will help reduce the level of air pollution by keeping the vital parameters within permissible limits. Out of the Rs 16.49 crore, Rs 4.8 crore will come from the Canadian government and Rs 4.18 crore from the PCB. The rest will be passed on to the polluting units.
The PCB has extended the switchover route to ceramic units, too, that add to the air pollution in their respective localities. Most of the ceramic units are located on both sides of BT Road in Belghoria. Most of these units are also facing closure as they have failed to respond to the convert-or-close rap.
According to PCB officials, the “city’s air quality will improve significantly” by the end of this year, by when even the oil-fired small-scale units would be made more environment-friendly.