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Hotspot horror for Howrah

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By JAYANTA BASU
  • Published 25.10.09
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The ministry of environment and forest has identified Howrah as an environmental hotspot, but the unfortunate tag may soon fetch Calcutta’s twin city central funds to improve its condition.

“Howrah is among the 24 hotspots identified across the country”, Union environment minister Jayram Ramesh told Metro recently. He said his ministry was conducting a study on the hotspots along with IIT Delhi. “We will decide on improvement projects and infrastructure-related support to Howrah after the study is completed in December,” said Ramesh.

A ministry official explained how Howrah, earlier designated a “critically polluted area”, earned the dubious distinction of environment hotspot. “Howrah suffers from climate change-related vulnerability, particularly air pollution. Given its proximity to the Hooghly, the danger of a rise in the water level was also taken into consideration.”

According to the state pollution control board, in 2007-08, the respirable particulate matter level in Howrah city was 119 micrograms per cubic metre of air — almost double the national permissible standard of 60 micrograms. In winter, the level shot up to thrice the permissible limit.

A recent report by the Consulting Engineering Services under the Calcutta Urban Services Project (CUSP) said the rise in vehicles, often old and ill-maintained, without adequate increase in infrastructure, was leading to an average speed of less than 15km per hour in 80 per cent of Howrah roads. This was adding to incomplete combustion and toxic emissions. It also pointed to the abundance of grossly polluting industries (257 “Red category” industries located in certain pockets) as the major sources of pollution.

Pointing to the poor green cover in Howrah, the report observed that the city was vulnerable to climate change at the local level and temperature rise.

The Howrah mayor, however, promised prompt action. “We will soon finalise an environment vision plan for Howrah based on the CUSP report and implement its major recommendations,” said mayor Mamta Jaiswal.