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Kolkata: Ignoring NGT orders adds to pollution

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09th November, 2019 09:58 IST
The Calcutta High Court in 2008 ordered the scrapping of commercial vehicles after 15 years but the NGT recently asked the state to cut the age to 10 years to cleanse the toxic air. KOLKATA: Environmental crusaders on Friday blamed the spiralling pollution and plunging air quality on the non-compliance of National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders and furnished a 35-point report on the issue.

“Our failure to comply with so many directives on environment has polluted the city environment. If we fail to take urgent corrective measures, the city we leave behind will not only be unworthy of living, but it will also be too late to reverse the situation,” said legal activist Subhas Datta, whose PILs on environment issues have forced governments to change the status quo.

Senior lawyer Kallol Guha Thakurtha said old, polluting vehicles, that were no longer road worthy, continued to ply, spewing choking fumes. Citing Vahan-2 statistics of the ministry of road transport and highways, he said more than 2 lakh vehicles over 15 years of age still operated here. “The so-called government notification and system-locking of the vehicles have not stopped them from running illegally,” he said.

The Calcutta High Court in 2008 ordered the scrapping of commercial vehicles after 15 years but the NGT recently asked the state to cut the age to 10 years to cleanse the toxic air. Datta and Guha Thakurta alleged that among the vehicles that caused the most pollution were government cars and buses that did not undergo the mandatory pollution under control tests.

They also pointed to the failure to widely offer coal bed methane (CBM) or ensure faster availability of CNG. “Both CBM and CNG can replace diesel and remove a huge amount of toxic fumes. We have been hearing about their availability for over a decade but they are still nowhere in sight,” said Datta.

Acknowledging CBM and CNG roll-out had been delayed owing to infrastructure issues, a senior state transport department official refuted the allegation that the government was inactive in controlling pollution. “The fleet of old buses is being replaced with new ones, which are more fuel efficient. Trams are being reintroduced. Electric buses have hit the streets. There will be electric cabs, too. As for NGT order compliance, we have submitted a detailed affidavit,” he said.

Another senior bureaucrat from the environment department said there was a concerted effort to improve the air quality. State PCB chairman Kalyan Rudra pointed to the challenge that Kolkata’s topography and climate posed. “It is not as though more pollutants are generated during winter. But what happens is a natural phenomenon of inversion that brings the particulate matter suspended in the air near the ground. The change in wind from south-westerly to northerly does not help matters as the latter is dry and brings in more particulate matter from the north,” he said.

The official though acknowledged much needed to be done. One such area is keeping rivers and water bodies clean. Though there are 44 sewage treatment plants along the Hooghly, 30 of them were out of order.
Read also Delhi: NGT’s no to new diesel cars for SPG How many vehicles can Delhi take, NGT asks Centre again

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