Kolkata choked by air pollution: Study

February 27th, 2009 - 1:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Feb 27 (IANS) Even as the West Bengal government is engaged in frantic efforts to phase out old vehicles, green activists claim that Kolkata is fast heading towards disaster due to abnormally high air pollution levels and needs a strong action plan to combat the menace.
A study released here Thursday by the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based organisation working on green issues, revealed that the annual average of Kolkata’s respirable suspended particulate matter exceeded the national standards in 2007 by 1.4 times and, as per the monthly data available, the trend is continuing.

“The carcinogenic benzene levels in Kolkata were found in winter of 2006-2007 to be as high as 36 microgrammes per cubic metre, higher than Delhi, which has a larger number of vehicles,” said CSE director Sunita Narain.

“The national draft ambient air standard proposed a limit of five microgrammes per cubic metre as annual average, which means the city has dangerously high levels of this carcinogen, largely emitted by two stroke vehicles. Kolkata needs a bold action plan to combat its toxic air pollution,” she said.

The CSE report said nearly 65 percent of Kolkata’s vehicular population and nearly 99 percent of commercial vehicles are diesel-run.

According to World Bank statistics, the pollution caused by diesel fuel to the city air was more than 2.7 times than in Delhi and 2.5 times of that in Mumbai.

Stressing on a few measures necessary to battle air pollution, the CSE study suggested that two-stroke autos should be phased out and the vehicles converted to cleaner LPG fuel.

The report also threw light on the exponential growth of private vehicles, mainly diesel-run transport. Automobile emission is reportedly responsible for more than half of the air pollution load in Kolkata.

The city has an additional problem of very old vehicles - nearly 54 percent of those on the roads are old and highly polluting and 55 percent are diesel driven, Narain said.

According to figures available, Kolkata has less than 2,000 km of roads which account just six percent of the city’s area while Delhi has about 31,000 km of roads - 21 percent of its area.

“On behalf of CSE, we’ll submit a letter to the state government, requesting it to take adequate steps to fight this dangerous evil of air pollution,” Narain said.

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