“The pollution bomb is ticking” by Somshankar Bandyopadhyay
By Somshankar Bandyopadhyay
June 4, 2002
KOLKATA: As World Environment Day approaches, alarming levels of air and water pollution continue to plague the citizens of Kolkata, with the authorities turning a blind eye to the problem. The average suspended particulate matter (SPM), the major indicator of air quality, is at an average of 159 g/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre), according to figures released by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board.
With the maximum permissible limit being 200 g/m³, the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board state that anything above 140 g/m³ surely indicates a high level of pollution.
At Shyambazar in north Kolkata and Behala Chowrasta in the south, SPM levels are 200 g/m³ and 224 g/m³, respectively.
The pollution control board figures reveal that parts of south Kolkata – Gariahat, Mominpur and Hyde Road – have higher pollution levels than the northern parts of the city.
Moreover, pollution was pretty high at Minto Park and Moulali in central Kolkata.
Of course, water pollution is a more serious issue.
According to the pollution control board , the quality of water at several places in the Hooghly is far below acceptable standards.
For example, at Palta, where water is drawn from the river to produce the bulk of the city’s filtered water, the presence of coliform bacteria stands at 50,000 per 100 ml.
The CPCB guidelines are that water to be used for drinking purposes should not have more than 5,000 bacteria per 100 ml before filtration. At Garden Reach, too, the quality of wtaer is even worse, with the bacteria count standing at 85,000 per 100 ml.
Another case in point is the quality of water at Dakshineshwar, where thousands of devotees bathe daily. While the CPCB recommended that the number of coliform bacteria should not be more than 500 per 100 ml for outdoor bathing, the figure stands at an alarming 110,000 in Dakshineshwar.
However, the pollution control board officials are unimpressed by the figures.
“The air pollution levels remain high during the dry season. Last year, air pollution went down below the critical point for the first time during the rainy season. We hope to maintain that this year, too,” claimed a senior board official.
Water pollution, he said, was more difficult to tackle as untreated sewerage was being disgorged into the river at many points.
“It needs a comprehensive programme involving the local bodies,” he added.