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AQI unlikely to improve this winter in Kolkata

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The Times Of India
20th October, 2019 06:47 IST

KOLKATA: The delay in implementation of action plan against city’s growing air pollution is unlikely to give relief to citizens from foul air this winter, felt environmentalists. The air quality in Kolkata turns vicious in winter, when breathing air causes more damage than smoking cigarettes.

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National Environment Engineering Research Institue (NEERI) interim source apportionment study indicated that reduction in vehicular emission and street-side food vendors switching to cleaner fuel would reduce emission burden of the city drastically. These two sources contribute more than 50% of particulate pollution (PM2.5 and PM10).

“The process of facilitating the switchover to cleaner fuel is yet to begin. It will take at least a year to implement. So, the pollution burden is unlikely to reduce this winter,” said environment crusader Subhas Datta, who had moved NGT on the city’s declining air quality way back in 2014. According to him, the process should have started a year ago.

The environment department is yet to address vehicular pollution in general and diesel exhaust in particular, which is the second biggest contributor to city’s particulate pollution, said another environment activist. “Eighty electric buses do not come to any quantifiable percentage of the city’s mammoth diesel fleet. The government has failed miserably to make coal belt methane (CBM), available in abundance in Asansol and Ranigunj, a clean fuel available in the city as an alternative to diesel,” said Datta.

In absence of CNG or CBM, the government could use biodiesel, which is produced by at least three city-based companies, to bring down the particulate pollution. “City’s diesel fleet can mix 20% bio-fuel or bio-diesel (extracted from oilseeds) at depot level to bring down the particulate pollution,” said Dr Prabir Basu, an auto emission expert. The state government can also think of installing air ioniser at key crossings, added auto emission consultant Somendra Mohan Ghosh.

“The government’s efforts are fraught with inaction and non-compliances of NGT orders. So far, the government has failed to take any suo motu action on pollution. All its actions are driven by court verdicts. Even then, implementation of an action plan takes long. There should be a study on how inaction is forcing citizens to spend through their nose for healthcare. The collective cost must be mind-blowing,” said Datta.

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