CSE Stakeholder discussion forum: Kolkata City Dialogue on Air quality and transportation challenge: An agenda for action

Venue: Conference room, Lytton Hotel, 14 & 14/1, Sudder Street (near Indian Museum), Kolkata

Date: January 30, 2016 (Saturday)

Time: 9.30 am – 2.00 pm

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organised a stakeholder discussion forum – Kolkata City Dialogue on Air quality and transportation challenge: An agenda for action on January 30, 2016 in Kolkata. The objective of this initiative was to engage with all the relevant stakeholders of the city to share experience of Kolkata and Delhi to build public and policy awareness on clean air and public health as well as urban mobility for a liveable city. Kolkata has already planned and implemented a variety of measures to reduce air pollution and is on its way to evolve the next generation policy measures. This dialogue forum will help to capture the learning in our cities, and help to evolve strategies for future policy action. This forum brought together 50 participants including regulators involved with city governance, air pollution and transportation policies from West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, The Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) Limited, medical experts, academics, scientists, NGOs, civil society groups and media.

The speakers and panelists include Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, CSE; Manas Ranjan Ray, Senior Scientific Officer and Head, Department of Experimental Hematology, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute; Nilanjan Shandilya, Managing Director, CTC Limited, Ujjal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Chief Scientist, West Bengal Pollution Control Board; Ashish Kumar Ghosh, Director, Centre for Environment and Development and Somendra Mohan Ghosh, Environmentalist and Green Technologist.

CSE’s presentation highlighted the air pollution challenge in Kolkata and also presented the exposure monitoring. The city is in the grip of rising air pollution and multi pollutant crisis. According to the official ambient air quality monitoring there has been 61 per cent increase in particulate matter in just four years (2010 to 2013). While particulate levels exceed standards by 2.7 times, NO2 levels exceed by close to 2 times. CSE exposure monitoring provides clinching evidence of alarming dose that an average Calcuttan breathes on a daily basis in different parts of the city, which is 2 to 3 times higher than the ambient level recorded by official monitors. With growing vehicle numbers and resultant congestion and dieselisation, air pollution is a growing concern in the city. The city is losing its inherent advantage of dominant commuting practices – use of bus and walking – at the cost of clean air and public health. CSE recommended that Kolkata, like Delhi and other Indian cities, needs second generation action, including leapfrogging emissions standards to Euro VI, curbing dieselisation, scaling up of integrated public transport, car restraints and walking for clean air and public health.

Ray talked about the public health challenge of air pollution. Based on evidences from the air pollution and health studies Ray had undertaken in Kolkata, he informed that air pollution adversely affects lung function, alters immune status increasing susceptibility to disease, increases prevalence of hypertension, two-fold increase in liver and kidney function impairment, four-fold rise in diabetes, decreases serum estrogen, causes change in menstrual cycle length in women, adverse reproductive outcome in women, neurobehavioral symptoms and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. He presented a series of recommendations for children which include regular monitoring of PM 2.5 and ground level ozone; air quality monitoring of class room, and PFT at least once a year; no outdoor games during mid day (12 noon to 3 pm); school buses should be run on cleaner fuels; and forecasting of high pollution days.

Shandilya shared about the importance of tramways, its current status and future plans. He said that the solution to air pollition and transportation woes is to increase public transport and reduce private transport. He informed that number of city buses has been increased and these are all BS IV complaint. Seven hundred buses have been procured and are plied on road in the Kolkata Metropolitan City area by the CTC. The CTC and West Bengal State Transport Corporation have added more than 150 uses for connecting the suburbs with the city. The state transport buses have increased in the city with old dilapidated buses been replaced by new buses. In case of trams during the first phase, old tracks are being reviewed. The latest has been the Ballyganj-Tollygang, which was completed before the festival period and is running now and is very popular. The tracks near St. Thomas School are being improved, Wellington was renewed and connected to the track. There are other tracks for renewal in pipeline. There were other tracks which could not be done due to ongoing civic work. Some routes have been reintroduced as well. There are plans to extend tram service in new city, Salt Lake and Rajarhaat, which are under consideration at present. The idea is to have modern trams as in European countries and elsewhere in the world. While the running cost of the trams is less, the initial cost is high but still less than the metro (its 1/5th of the cost of metro). The CTC is looking at the cost issue. Shandilya said trams can only survive if the citizens want it to survive.

Mukhopadhyay talked about the air quality issue of Kolkata. Presenting the air quality data analysis for 2013 to 15 from eleven air quality monitoring stations, he informed that the air quality of Kolkata is non-compliant for pollutants like PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 and compliant for other pollutants like SO2, carbon monoxide, ozone, benz(a)pyrene, ammonia, nickel, arsenic and lead. During winter season (starting late in October and ending early March), PM2.5 and PM10 level is higher than national standards in Kolkata and Howrah. The PM2.5 and PM10 levels are non-compliant for 24 weeks or a period of 5.5 months every year in Kolkata and non-compliant for 30 weeks or a period of 6.5 months every year in Howrah. In case of NO2, non-compliance period is only 4 weeks (during end of December and end of January). The night-time concentrations in Kolkata and Howrah are higher than the day-time concentration in winter time. As of January 2016, there are 19 operational air quality monitoring stations. The WBPCB and transport department also conduct joint inspections of the PUC centre at the time of renewal of licenses by transport authorities. The WBPCB sends its recommendations to the competent authorities for consideration of renewal of license of PUC Centres, on merit and independently inspects PUC Centres in case new application forwarded by the transport department. He suggested requirement of additional air monitoring stations to include installation of three additional continuous air monitoring stations at near Science City, near Ballygunge Phanri and Sector-V with both PM10 and PM2.5 sensors; arrangement for continuous monitoring of PM2.5 at Victoria Memorial and Rabindrabharati University and source apportionment study. The immediate measures are ban on burning of coal and wood in the city; strict implementation of direction issued by Department of Environment, Govt. of West Bengal for controlling air pollution generated due to construction activity in projects having more than 500 sq. mtrs; complete banning of burning of solid waste including dry leaves in the city areas; plantation of new leafy saplings in different parts of the twin cities to mitigate air pollution and replacement of open vats by compactors which have contributed to the improvement in ambient air quality.

The other panelists, Ashish Kumar Ghosh talked about the relevance of air quality, public health and transportation in Kolkata and future steps and Somendra Mohan Ghosh, talked about the first public interest litigation on air pollution in Kolkata that was filed by him and the subsequent PILs filed by other environmental activists and the judicial action. It was an interactive workshop with lots of views, insight, experiences and suggestions from participants.

For more information, please contact:

Priyanka Chandola
Deputy Programme Manager Right To Clean Air Campaign
Centre for Science and Environment
Mobile: +91 - 9810414938
Email: priyanka@cseindia.org



Programme Schedule


Clearing the air in our cities: Agenda for action

By: Anumita Roychowdhury
With Vivek Chattopadhyay, Priyanka Chandola, Inderjit Ahuja, Usman Nasim, Neha Saxena and Polash Mukherjee

Health impact of air pollution

By: Dr. Manas Ranjan Ray

Air Quality Issues of Kolkata

By: Ujjal Kumar Mukhopadhyay


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