The city police have become the first state government agency to respond to the unprecedented levels of pollution the city has witnessed this winter by imposing a ban on waste burning in the city limits till February 27, 2019. The notification issued on Monday directs senior officers to be vigilant to prevent violations of the order.
Apart from vehicular pollution, waste burning is one of the biggest sources of air pollution in Kolkata. The sharp rise in particulate matter in the air has led to a spike in respiratory distress and other long-term physical ailments among city residents.
Kolkata’s air takes a turn for the worse in November and continues till February end. This year, it has been the worst in recent memory with air quality degradation that began with bursting of crackers during Kali Puja-Diwali remaining consistently poor throughout November. It eased only in mid-December after a spell of rain brought down the PM count.
With pollution levels exceeding that of Delhi on several days, activists have been calling for action from the state. The clamour for action gathered strength after doctors expressed extreme unease over the high pollution levels and warned it could lead to long-term health impacts.
‘PCB has failed in its duty to curb pollution’
Though the environment department and West Bengal Pollution Control Board have been conspicuously silent, the city police’s move to ban waste burning in its jurisdiction has raised a flicker of hope. “It is good that police took upon itself the duty of preventing waste burning. The PCB has miserably failed to curb pollution,” said environmentalist S M Ghosh.
A study by the National Environment Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) has indicated that waste burning might be the biggest source of pollution along with automobile exhaust. “It is like stubble burning in Punjab that affects Delhi. Despite the NGT order, waste burning has become all pervasive in the city,” said green crusader Subhas Dutta.
The NGT had on December 23, 2016, imposed a ban on burning of waste in open places and announced a fine of Rs 25,000 on each incident of bulk waste burning. Burning of waste was prohibited even on landfill sites.
“For each such incident, violators, including project proponent, concessionaire, any person or body responsible for such burning, shall be liable to pay environmental compensation of Rs 5,000 in case of simple burning, while Rs 25,000 in case of bulk waste burning,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar had ordered. Police can thus slap a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 for violations. “The most prominent pollutant in Kolkata is PM2.5. It is nearly impossible to prevent such fine particulate matters from going into lung and bloodstream,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment.
Source: Times of India