An air pollution report published by the US-based research organisation Health Effects Institute (HEI) on Wednesday said Kolkata is the second worst among 103 most populous global cities considering exposure to the most toxic PM 2.5 pollutants.
This is the first study that has a city-level analysis.
It includes a detailed study of air pollution and global health effects in more than 7,000 cities around the world, focusing on fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
PM 2.5 pollutants can penetrate into the deep crevices of the lungs and trigger a range of critical ailments. The report shows Kolkata’s annual average PM 2.5 level in 2019 was 83.95 micrograms per cubic meter, nearly 17 times above the safe limit of 5 micrograms specified by the World Health Organisation, and was only second to Delhi.
The report says Delhi has the highest average level of PM 2.5 (110 micrograms) among the world’s most populated cities. India is home to 18 of the 20 cities with the most severe increase in fine particle pollutants (PM 2.5) from 2010 to 2019.
Delhi and Kolkata reported 106 and 99 deaths per 1 lakh population in 2019, which could be attributed to PM 2.5 pollution, says the report titled “Air Quality and Health in Cities”.
The study used ground based air quality data from satellites and models to produce air quality estimates for cities around the world.
No Indian city falls in the top 20 most polluted cities when NO2 is considered. On the PM 2.5 scale, Kolkata is followed by Kano in Nigeria, Lima in Peru and Dhaka in Bangladesh. Beijing, earlier known as the pollution capital of the world, is in 9th position after a significant reduction compared to the previous year (2018).
The report says Kolkata stands eighth in “PM 2.5 attributable death rate” — the number of deaths per 1 lakh population.
“Data from this report show that residents of Kolkata are exposed to poor air quality, including very high levels of PM 2.5. It is critical to address air pollution in the city and plan for targeted actions on sources including transportation, industries and waste,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist of HEI told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
“Of the 50 cities with the most severe increase in PM 2.5, 41 are in India and nine in Indonesia. Of the 20 cities with the greatest decrease in PM 2.5 pollution from 2010 to 2019, all are located in China,” the study said. Anumita Roy Choudhury, an air pollution expert with the environment think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said: “Kolkata needs the most stringent time-bound multi-sector action to meet the clean air target.”
Pulmonologist Arup Haldar said the report suggested the worst fears of Kolkata doctors were true.
“An increasing number of non-smoking COPD cases and asthma cases without family history are being reported in the city.
They could be directly related to rising pollution levels. We are also observing an increasing number of lung cancer cases linked to air pollution,” he said.
“I will seek a detailed report from the pollution control board and try to undertake appropriate steps to fix the problem,” state environment minister Manas Bhuniya said.
Pillion rider dies in bridge accident
A man riding pillion on a scooter with a colleague died after the two-wheeler was hit by a bus on the Howrah-bound flank of the Vivekananda Setu on Wednesday evening, police said.
The rider Sougata Roy Chowdhury, 35, and his colleague Sheikh Shahzada, 27 — who work for a mobile phone company — were returning home when the accident happened around 5.50pm.
Police said, a Bihar-bound bus allegedly hit the scooter and ran over the pillion rider. Both were taken to SSKM Hospital where Roy Chowdhury was declared dead.
Sheikh Shahzada is being treated at the hospital. Roy Chowdhury, a resident of Dakshin Paschim Para of Sankrail in Howrah.
The bus driver has been arrested. Both the scooter and the bus have been impounded and would be sent for test.