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Clean air? Not in suburbia

KOLKATA, 26 JULY: Air quality in the outskirts seems to be deteriorating rapidly.
The air pollution level in the city and the outskirts were found to be equal in some parameters considered while monitoring the ambient air quality by the state pollution control board while in others, the level of pollution in the outskirts were found to be exceeding the city.
Even though the vehicular traffic in the outskirts is less, most of the old commercial vehicles that were phased out of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Area (KMDA) zone after a Calcutta High Court order were found plying in the suburbs. The high court banned 15-year-old commercial vehicles, as they didn’t have the requisite devices to check pollution. However, most of these vehicles rule the roads near Baguiati, Hatiara, Garia, Baruipur, Amtala, Khardah, Barrackpore and Dum Dum.
“The vehicular pollution is not the only factor that leads to the rise in pollution level in the suburbs. The industries are also responsible for worsening the air quality,” said Debanjan Gupta, scientist, West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB). He said that the re-suspension of dust also heightens the pollution level. While the permissible limit for Respirable Particulate Matter (RPM) is 50 µg/m3, it was found to be as high as 112 µg/m3 in the suburbs. The city, however, recorded 88.8 µg/m3. The permissible limit of RPM for residential area is 60 µg/m3, while in industrial areas, it is 120 µg/m3. Mr Gupta also said that the weather conditions also play a pivotal role in determining these values.
Mr Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist, WBPCB, said that after the old vehicles were phased out, the pollution in the city did not go down. Benzene, a hazardous air pollutant that causes cancer and a component in automobile oil, has successfully been reduced. “The air quality graph is static right now. This means that the pollution is neither increasing nor decreasing. But with the rise in number of vehicles in the city, it may rise again in the future,” he said. He also said that in the after monitoring some places in the districts, it was found that the air pollution level is increasing menacingly.
Most of the public vehicles plying on the outskirts are ones that had been banned in the city. Lack of testing centres in the districts has given a free hand to the autos that use adulterated oil. “Engine vans” plying in the districts are also highly polluting.
Mr Debabrata Das, superintendent of the Durgapur Sub-divisional Hospital, said there has been an increase in number of patients that come to the hospital with problems such as asthma and bronchitis. “Pollution is one of the major factor leading to this rise in number of patients complaining about respiratory distress,” he said.

Soma Basu

Soma Basu

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