While the capital is reeling under severe air pollution, the situation is not too bright in other metro cities. In fact, Kolkata is increasingly becoming a top contender in terms of air pollution.
A joint study by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, UKAID, and the British Deputy High Commission has revealed that Kolkata is the country’s fifth highest contributor of Green House Gas (GHG), emitting 14.8 million tons of GHG. The eastern metropolis is also the second highest contributor in per capita CO2 emission, producing near about 3.29 tonnes of CO2 per capita.
The study also highlights that over 70% of 15 million residents suffer from some form of respiratory disorder caused by the pollution in Kolkata. Though the city‚Äôs present pollution levels can be termed as alarming, the citizens of Kolkata and the state government of West Bengal are going all out to combat the menace and keep hopes alive in a way that promise to decrease pollution levels in 5 to 7 years down the line.
The city’s citizens, especially the youngsters, are engaging themselves in a variety of activities to increase awareness in promoting environmental preservation. These small initiatives come in big packages in the form of reclaiming green spaces, encouraging carpools, and arming rag-pickers in managing waste more efficiently.
One such noteworthy effort is the ‚ÄėBackseat Buddies‚Äô program, which has been promoting carpooling among school-going children to reduce vehicular population and air pollution in Kolkata. The innovative program, in its first phase, has roped in 70,000 school-goers from 33 schools and has successfully helped in curbing pollution to a great extent.
Many NGOs are also contributing their bit in ‚Äúgreenifying‚ÄĚ Kolkata through retrieval of parklands and preservation of open spaces. Both organizations are continuously striving to expand greenery and species by setting up butterfly gardens at various places in the city.
The state government of West Bengal, along with NGOs and citizens, is firing all guns to keep Kolkata clean, green and pollution-free. Here are some of the many ingenious campaigns that have been initiated and run by the West Bengal government.
The Zero-Plastic Waste Campaign¬†¬†¬†
Discarded plastics, due to its non- biodegradable nature, pose a tremendous threat to the environment and human health. Waste plastics littering here and there choke stormwater drains, clog sewer lines, block the aeration process of water bodies, and jam the bar-screens of sewage treatment plants.
The zero-plastic waste campaign, promoted by West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), thus aims to drive awareness about the threat of plastic waste through various programmes, which involve school students, NGOs, and officials of several districts across the state.
Various Measures Adopted to¬†Reduce Pollution in Kolkata
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), in a bid to provide a cleaner environment, has installed air pollution control devices and pollution-free wooden pyres at Keoratala crematorium in South Kolkata. The new control devices, with a 40 ft. tall chimney would considerably reduce pollution, smoke, and stench emanating from wooden funeral pyres. Similar measures have also been taken in Nimtala Ghat, a famous North Kolkata crematorium.
Additionally, to further reduce air pollution in Kolkata, the WBPCB has suggested the Calcutta high court to issue a notice to petrol pumps in the city to stop selling fuel to vehicles that can’t provide valid Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates. Since vehicle pollution contributes significantly to Kolkata’s total air pollution load, this initiative is expected to help curb air pollution levels dramatically.
Curbing noise pollution, over the years, has been a top priority of the WBPCB. Major initiatives that have been undertaken by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board include generation of awareness and strengthening of laws. WBPCB, in order to completely eliminate noise pollution, also conducts regular training programmes that comprise of government officials, representatives of local bodies, police, and citizens.
After years of neglect, KMC has finally decided to revive Adi Ganga ‚ÄĒ the 75-km-long channel of the national river Ganga. The Adi Ganga, which three centuries back was the prime outflow of the river Ganga to the Bay of Bengal, is today encroached upon and buried under garbage.
The planned Rs. 600-crore makeover ‚ÄĒ the biggest restoration work of Adi Ganga in decades ‚ÄĒ will initially renovate a 15.5 km stretch flowing through areas like Garia, Tollygunge, Naktala, Bansdroni, and Ranikuthi. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation, in association with National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA) and French consultancy firm Egis Eau, will start the Ganga revival project after preparation of a detailed project report.
The Green Bus Initiative
City commuters will soon get to travel on pollution-free public transport, as Kolkata’s transport department is contemplating to introduce electric buses within the city. These ultra-modern buses will run on rechargeable batteries, and not on diesel or CNG. Initially, 25 electric buses will be launched on a trial basis, however, the number of such ‘green’ vehicles will be gradually increased to replace the polluting public vehicles. This will not only lower the levels of air pollution in the city but will also help reduce noise pollution greatly.
With the rolling out of various campaigns, innovative awareness initiatives, and enforcement of workable environmental practice, standards, and regulations by the State Government, NGOs as well as citizen groups, we‚Äôre hoping to see a cleaner, greener, and healthier Kolkata emerge in the coming years. While the change may not be perceptible just yet, this combined fight against pollution will bring positive changes in the city‚Äôs environment.