Mayor Firhad Hakim has admitted that air pollution is the main problem that Kolkata is facing. He said this while addressing experts during a climate-pledge programme at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation on September 14.
The mayor’s statement follows the recent publication of an international study, Air Quality and Health in Cities: A State of Global Air Report, by the US-based Health Effects Institute that found only Delhi had a higher annual PM2.5 level than Kolkata in 2019 among the 103 most populous cities covered by the study. PM2.5 is an important marker of air pollution.
By taking the climate pledge, Kolkata became the first city in India and the biggest in south Asia to express formal support to the global movement for a non-fossil-fuel-driven future and for increasing climate resilience, powered by Climate Action Network — a consortium of 1,800 organisations spread over 130 cities. The following is a translation of the speech by the mayor on the occasion:
If there are no humans, to whom will we offer municipal services? The direction in which the world is moving makes it difficult to predict whether humans and, for that matter, other animal forms will exist in the future or not. No doubt, air pollution is our main problem.
After planting so many trees recently — and we are still planting — I never thought our city would be the second-most polluted in the world. It is a fact that we have not yet managed to stop burning fossil fuels; control dust from constructions and poor roads; prevent pollution from some industrial units in and around the city and a few other sources. Hence, I request experts like you all to show us the way so that our future generations can live healthily in this city. We cannot leave a city like this for them to live in. We are doing the routine things, but I feel that is not good enough.
We are noticing a lack of awareness among people as well. Many are damaging or cutting down trees in the city, not understanding that what they are actually damaging is the future of their sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. We need your help to make them aware.
As the transport minister, I signed two agreements. One of them is for 1,200 electric buses to ply in Kolkata in the next two years. We expect the (air pollution) problem to reduce to a certain extent after the introduction of the buses. The other agreement was about converting app-based cars to environment-friendly fuel.
Our chief minister has waived the registration fees of new battery-operated cars for the next two years, but we have to keep in mind that even in the case of battery-operated cars, the energy is coming from thermal power plants by burning fossil fuel and hence these cars, too, add to the pollution. Hence, we have to shift to solar power. That is the main requirement now. Please let us know how we can make that possible. Moreover, you can also let us know what short and long-term measures we can take.