Monday, 30th October 2017

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Dust in the air

Poor air quality in the twin townships prompts the environment department to announce a pollution measuring station in FC Block, reports Jayanta Basu

  • Published 20.07.18
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A pollution measuring unit at Victoria Memorial that keeps tab on city air

Salt Lake is as much a dust bowl as Calcutta has been, shows West Bengal Pollution Control Board data accessed by The Telegraph Salt Lake. The finding is in contradiction to popular perception that Salt Lake, being a planned city and having more greenery, is less polluted than Calcutta which even overtook Delhi in terms of fine particulate pollution for a major part of last winter when the air pollution reaches maximum level.

Experts pointed out that the poor level of air quality in Salt Lake Rajarhat area has prodded the state environment department to recently announce the setting up of an automatic and continuously monitoring air pollution measurement station in Salt Lake. Currently Salt Lake does not have single automatic measuring station, though it has four manually operated stations in Salt Lake-Rajarhat and its fringe areas.  

“Considering the importance of measuring air pollution in detail, we are going to set up 11 continuous automatic air pollution stations in the state, out of which one will be at the Administrative Training Institute in Salt Lake,” said environment minister Suvendu Adhikari at a recent meeting held at the environment department office in Salt Lake. “We expect to complete the installation of the new stations by December when the air pollution levels peak,” added environment secretary Indevar Pandey.

Alarming data

During the period of April 2016 to March 2017 — the last state pollution control board generated data available in compiled state — Ultadanga manual station recorded an average PM 10 level of 134 micrograms per cubic meter of air, more than double to nationally permissible limit of 60 micrograms. According to PCB, the average PM 10 level of 17 manually operated air pollution measurement stations in Calcutta and Salt Lake was about 119 micrograms. PM 10 is the fine particulate, one of the most potent pollutants, which can enter the deep crevices of lungs and trigger a range of respiratory, cardiac diseases and even cancers.

If Ultadanga tops the list among four stations in the region, others are not far behind. While a station located close to Karunamoyee recorded 104 micrograms, another station at Paribesh Bhawan – headquarters of state PCB at EM Bypass Beleghata crossing – had average pollution figure of 119 micrograms. The level of PM 10 pollution at Rajarhat was 87 micrograms.

In winter  — October to February — the level of pollution in Salt Lake and Rajarhat was found to shoot up and even recorded values close to thrice above the permissible limit.

Construction curse

Experts point out that though there are various reasons behind the rising air pollution level in Salt Lake, the relentless construction activities followed by traffic are mainly to blame. “Though the greeneries may partly neutralise it continuous constructional activities in both Salt Lake and Rajarhat are the main reason for the rise in air pollution followed by pollution generated by vehicles,” observed Arunabha Majumdar, an AA Block-based environment expert and an Emeritus professor at Jadavpur University. 

“So many flyovers etc are coming in Salt Lake; but it’s strange that construction of flyovers, despite their potential contribution in pollution bowl, do not need any environment impact assessment,” pointed out Tapas Ghatak, a resident of EE Block and a former head of the environment cell at the CMDA. 

Former chief law officer of state PCB Biswajit Mukherjee said that  the earlier board had circulated guidelines and directed East West Metro and other constructions to abide by the norms so that air pollution did not increase. “It’s now free for all as the constructions hardly care to abide by any norms,” pointed out an environment department official.
Earlier, a test conducted by The Telegraph Salt Lake using a laboratory affiliated to the board revealed that the level of the PM 10 in the air near a construction site of East West Metro in DD Block, off City Centre, was more than 12 times the nationally permissible limit. The test, spanning over 24 hours, showed that the PM 10 level in DD Block was 1,249 micrograms per cubic metre of air, against the permissible limit (day) of 100 micrograms.

Residentspeak 

“There is haze in the air just as we cross the Technopolis bridge and enter New Town. New Town looks (and smells) very different in daytime and at night and certainly this is due to the construction material-carrying heavy vehicles,” says Bhujaya Ray Chowdhury, who lives near the Upasana immersion ghat. “New Town needs many more tall trees to act as a barrier between the MAR and the residential blocks.”