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Air threat to human lungs in Kolkata

 Kolkata air pollution

 Victora meorial, Kolkata

Kolkata is the most polluted metropolis in the country with its pollution levels recorded highest among eight tropical Asian countries, according to study. According to the study, India has highest PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), a carcinogenic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as compared to cities of other countries, the research paper published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, an international scientific journal, said.

Kolkata, the capital of  West Bengal  is around 2.5 times more dangerous than the Environment Pollution in Delhi. Environment Pollution in Mumbai is the second metro after Kolkata and Chennai comes fourth. Delhi ranks third while among all areas of the country, Vadodara is the safest city to live in. According to statistics released by the Scientific and Environmental Research Institute, quoting government figures, Kolkata had a suspended particulate matter (SPM), the measure of pollution, at a steep 511 compared to Delhi's 234 and Mumbai's 322. 

Kolkata inhales poison in every breath

The depleting green cover and rapid increase in vehicular traffic are taking a toll on the city's ambient air quality. The results of the tests conducted by the US embassy give us a clearer picture as they take into account fine particles less than 2.5 micron in diameter. These particles can aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attack and acute bronchitis. PM 2.5 is a standard recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), on the other hand, follows the PM 10 method that monitor only dust particles that are 10 microns in diameter.

  High court directive on autorickshaws

  The landmark high court directive on auto rickshaws has finally led to the first step towards a pollution-free Kolkata. It might not clean the city's air in one stroke, but it is sure to reduce pollution significantly. Vehicles older than 15 years emit 20 times more fumes than new ones. They have been asked to withdraw by June 30. The court directed that all auto-rickshaws, irrespective of their date of registration, will have to convert to either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).  Autos are believed to be worse. While an ADB study pegged their contribution to total pollution load at 30%, a high court-appointed expert committee had recommended their phase out in 2005. Withdrawing autos can lower pollution more dramatically in a city like Mumbai than Kolkata. The HC verdict will help the people of Kolkata to breath fresh again.

  To protect Victoria Memorial

   Environmentalist Subhas Dutta on Monday, June 10, 2008 filed a petition in Calcutta High Court, alleging that the state government had failed to carry out court orders to protect the Victoria Memorial Hall from pollution. The order, passed on September 28 last year by a division bench, had asked the government to follow certain guidelines to cut down on the pollution level around the monument. 

   “The court had directed the state government to shift the Esplanade bus terminus to a site at least three km away from the Memorial within six months. No action has yet been taken in this regard,’’ said Dutta.

Clean up Kolkata air to make it inviting

    Howarh bridge

A senior American diplomat has cautioned that Indian cities, including Kolkata and Delhi, may have difficulty in retaining and attracting talent if they do not clean up the air.

Speaking to TOI, US embassy deputy minister counselor for economic, environment, science and technology Samuel Kotis said high levels of air pollution was a growing concern among expatriates.

"Air pollution affects everyone because we all breathe the same air. Its adverse impact on health is definitely cause for concern. As a father, I am worried about my son who is 16. On days when the pollution level is very high in Delhi, I ask him to stay indoors. I am sure parents in Kolkata would be concerned as well because there are days when the air here is more polluted than Delhi," Kotis said.

The World Health Organization 2014 report on air pollution lists Kolkata among polluted cities. Delhi tops the chart globally.

   The West Bengal government issued the notification on  March 28, 2008 acting on a six-month old High Court Order. The order was the concern of High Court that the relic of the Raj (Victoria Memorial) needs to be protected from the defacing fumes that tandoors and barbecues emit. Hotels and restaurants within a three-kilometers radius of Victoria Memorial can no longer use the charcoal fired ovens to barbecue meat and fish or cook tandoori food.

   Study of air Pollution in city.

    An ongoing global air pollution study by the Us-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has found that carbon monoxide emitted by cars combine with nitrogen dioxide present in the city atmosphere to cause serious damage to human lungs. 

   The research being carried out by the Ultra Violet Remote Sensing Group under the atmospheric chemistry department of  Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, has also reveled that the bulk of Kolkata's dust particles come from West Asia and the neighboring  regions. 

   The study in its first phase, is being conducted with the help of Ozone Monitoring Instrument, a satellite recording images of air pollution across the globe. "The image recorded before monsoon confirm that the dust particle in Calcutta and other parts of Gangetic valley are blown in from outside," explained Pawan Kumar Bhartia, in charge of the project. "We are in talks with Indian Space Research  Organisation and other Indian research institutes for studies on the ground and sea level.Investigation into India's air pollution is a complex process, as the direction of  air flow changes through the year."

   The satellite images show presence of layers of nitrogen dioxide and aerosols in the city's atmosphere, Nitrogen dioxide, in the presence of sunlight, forms ozone, which is extremely harmful for crops and lungs. While nitrogen dioxide cannot move from one place to another, ozone flows to other areas. "It is to be seen how much of the thick layer of ozone  over Kolkata has flown in from outside," said Nasa scientist. The aerosol consists of solid dust particles and sulphuric acid. "The dust particles are blown over the northern part of India to Kolkata before they move south towards Bay of Bengal," added Bhartia. According to him, dust particles can travel 700 to 800 km in a day, which means they will take only a couple of days to travel from Delhi to Kolkata.

   Air pollution suffocates Kolkata

   Some 70% of people in the city of Kolkata suffer from respiratory disorders caused by air pollution, a recent study by a prominent cancer institute in India has concluded. Ailments include lung cancer, breathing difficulties and asthma, caused by air pollution, the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) study says. The CNCI is one of India's foremost research bodies, and its investigation took six years to complete. 

   One of its key findings was a direct link between air pollution among the 18m people of Kolkata and the high incidence of lung cancer. Kolkata tops all Indian cities when it comes to lung cancer - at 18.4 cases per 100,000 people - far ahead of Delhi at 13.34 cases per 100,000.

   The fuel of auto rickshaws is bad for air quality. The city's highly polluted air is leading to the growing number of lung cancer patients," says Twisha Lahiri, who conducted the CNCI study with five other researchers. The ideal count of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) and Respiratory Particulate Matter (RPM) should not exceed 140 and 60 respectively.

  Kolkata's air pollution results from the horribly high levels of auto emissions.  (Burbon Road, Kolkata, packed all the time with mini -buses and buses.)

  But Kolkata's average SPM count is 211 and RPM count is 105. And in the worst polluted traffic intersections, this count can be double the city's average during busy hours. "Kolkata's air pollution results from the horribly high levels of auto emissions which the authorities have failed to control so far. If this is not checked with a heavy hand, the impact on the health of Kolkatan's, particularly children, will be devastating," says city doctor Parthasarthi Dutta. Street side occupants - particularly the hawkers who sell stuff - are the worst sufferers , the CNCI study says. It says that 79% of hawkers who spend a long time outdoors have suffered damaged lungs. 

 The worst offenders are around 50,000 auto rickshaws - half of them unregistered - who use "kantatel". This is a fuel made out of a deadly concoction of kerosene and petrol. "The toxic fumes released by them pollutes the city's air more than anything else, but no one can touch the auto- rickshaws because they have powerful trade unions," says environmentalist Subhas Dutta. "It again becomes an employment issue," he said.


    In Kolkata 85% vehicles flout emission norms

 Only one in every six vehicles in the city get the emission tested. The rest give a damn. Till December 2008, around 14 lakh vehicles were registered in the city. All of these vehicles 9.5 lakh private and 4.5 lakh commercial were required to get the tailpipe emission tested twice a year. In 1989, a nexus between transport officials, operators and police has ensured that polluting vehicles continue to ply on Kolkata's roads unchecked and uninhibited.

Faced with a scrap order for commercial vehicles that are over 15 years old, bus and taxi operators have threatened to launch an agitation from July 24, 2009. But none have an answer to why their vehicles have continued to flout norms and ply without proper emission tests. Incidentally, emission test centres had upgraded to advanced multi-gas analyzers at an investment of Rs 5.5-6 lakh each in 2004-05 following a high court order on the curb pollution issue. But with most vehicles failing to report for tests and continuing to ply on city roads unchecked, the court took up the pollution issue again, leading to the fresh scrap order that operators are now finding unpalatable.

  Asian brown cloud has robbed West Bengal of winter

Environmental experts feel a blanket of pollutants in the air, called the Asian Brown Cloud, could be responsible for the climate change. "For the past few years we have not been experiencing winter in  West Bengal . This environmental change is caused by the formation of the Asian Brown Cloud," environmentalist Pranabesh Sanyal, who is also a member of the World Conservation Union said.  "The cloud has been formed due to increasing automobile pollution in the air, carbon soot (or particulate carbon) and chemicals used in the agriculture sector."

According to Sanyal, the Asian Brown Cloud is the main reason behind the apparent climate change in India. "It's also causing delayed winter and absence of chill factor in West Bengal."  "Massive use of inorganic fertilisers and automobile byproducts lead to nitrous oxide emission in the air. This has caused the formation of an atmospheric brownish haze layer over a vast portion of South Asia," he said.

  Polluted waters of the Ganges River after the immersion of Durga idols

        Idols emersion in Ganga

  The Hooghly River around Kolkata was left so polluted after the first day of immersions that millions of fish and aquatic plants have been massacred, and anyone who went into the water faced the danger of falling severely ill due to zinc and heavy metal poisoning. The River Pollution Control Act categorically prohibits idol immersions in the river. Kolkata Municipal Corporation also claiming  to protect the Hooghly from pollution caused by immersions. Yet, all this has come to a naught. Samples of water collected showed that dissolved oxygen had dipped to 2.1 mg per litre while the desired level is at least 5 mg per litre. This is dangerous level as aquatic life cannot survive in such low oxygen content in water. The volume of solid suspended matter as well as oil and grease in water were also alarmingly high. The content of solid suspended matter in the water like zinc, aluminium and lead can affect those who bathe in the water leave alone those who drink it,” said S M Ghosh of EMG.
  This year (2011)  Kolkata civic body is planning to offer Durga puja organisers the  option of melting the idols with jets of Ganga water instead of consigning them to the river, drawing inspiration from an environment-friendly immersion process followed by Naihati Kali pujas. In the proposed process, the melting of idols, after completion of the religious rituals, symbolises immersion. "We want to introduce the wash-melt process, at least at Babughat, after Durga Puja. Discussions are on with the fire services. The puja organisers will have the option of choosing this process or going for the conventional one," said Debasish Kumar, mayoral council member (parks and garden) in first week of August 2011

    Pollution due to illegal tanneries

  The stench of hides being sun-dried and the odour of tanned leather hangs in the air by the illegal tanneries that line the nearby railway tracks. The Supreme Court had in April 2002 mandated that all tanneries must move to CLC by October that year. Yet, some 250-odd tanneries continue to operate in the city, according to Paresh Rajda, a leading glove exporter based in Kolkata and the eastern regional chairman of the Council for Leather Exports, a trade body sponsored by the Union ministry of commerce and industry.

“Of the almost 500 leather goods manufacturers in Kolkata...only 112 have bought plots in the CLC and of them only about 10-odd have started some form of construction,” says Rajda. Kolkata’s leather goods manufacturers suffered a major setback because they were heavily dependent on exports. “Almost 95% of India’s leather glove exports and 60% of the leather goods exports originate in and around Calcutta,” adds Rajda. The West Bengal Pollution Control Board claims to have forcibly closed 72 leather units over the past couple of months.

   Survey report by CII

The Confederation of Indian Industry (northern region) recent survey, which has dug deep into publicly available data, highlights several weaknesses of Kolkata in comparison with the other cities while ranking it fifth among five metros. “The objective of the study is to prompt the authorities to do some soul-searching on how to do better in each parameter,”  said Amit Kapoor, the chairman of the Institute of Competitiveness, a CII arm. The study, based on data from sources like CMIE and CSO, considered eight broad parameters to arrive at the best Indian city to live in.The parameters are demography, education, health, safety, housing, socio-cultural and political environment, economic environment and planned environment.

A rank behind growth centres in other parts of the country may not come as a surprise to the victims of inadequate civic amenities, disruptive politics, poor traffic management and rising pollution, but the survey has also challenged several myths about Kolkata.  In education, the study reveals high dropout in schools, which comes as an embarrassment for the Left government. The city’s rank of 16th in “education level distribution” — an education sub-parameter tracking enrolment in higher studies — would deal another blow to Kolkata’s image of being the country’s  intellectual capital. The performance in health is a mixed bag, with Kolkata ranking 24th for availability   of hospital beds and doctors but first in vaccination, life expectancy at birth and infant mortality rate.

  Kolkata tops lung cancer find

  Poison in the air and love for the puff have made Calcutta the lung cancer capital of India. A study has revealed that in 2007 Calcutta had topped the metros in new lung cancer cases. The comparative study on lung cancer is part of the National Cancer Registry Programme conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research. In Calcutta, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) is one of the host institutes of the programme.

With near about five lakh cancer patients, West Bengal accounts for half of the country's total cancer cases, a senior doctor said on February 4, 2013. "West Bengal has five lakhs cancer patients. 70,000 cases of cancer are detected every year in the state out of which 35,000 die annually due to cancer," Medical Director, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute Ashis Mukhopadhyay said.

He said lungs cancer is more prevalent among men and cervical cancer among women. In urban areas, breast cancer is more prevalent. "Every 25 women out of 100 suffer from breast cancer," he said.  He said quitting smoking and alcohol consumption and steps to control pollution can help prevent cancer. 70,000 cases of cancer are detected every year in the state out of which 35,000 die annually due to cancer.

  Kolkata to house Asia's second lab to study supernova conditions

  Asia's second advanced facility for conducting experiment of Unstable & Rare-Isotope Beams will come up at the Rajarhat campus of Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) in Kolkata. Japan is the only other Asian country to have this facility. The USA, France, Canada are the other three countries to have similar research facilities.

The new facility called ANURIB (Advanced National facility for Unstable & Rare-Isotope Beams), which will come up over eights acres inside the 25-acre campus at a cost of Rs 869 crore, will conduct experiments that will help the scientists to understand the structure of nuclei, particularly the unstable ones.

"The facility and the research will give us complete information on nuclear forces and nuclear equators of a state which controls supernova explosions where all the elements heavier than Iron are produced. As far as the general usage is concerned, it is quite possible that it may help in the discovery of many isotopes, which could have great applications in the field of medicine and material science," said Dr Dinesh Srivastava, Director, VECC.

  Kolkata Map

Rising sea levels threaten survival of cities like Kolkata: RK Pachauri
 Rising sea levels due to climate change are threatening the survival of big cities located near coastal areas like Kolkata, Shanghai and Dhaka, said Dr RK Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “There is a very high risk in delta cities like Kolkata, Shanghai and Dhaka. They are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to sea level rise and coastal flooding. Both people and property would be affected in such a scenario,” said Pachauri -PTI

Science City creates 'space' for Sunita Williams

  Indian-American astronaut Sunita L. Williams   spend just three hours at the Science City for a lecture and an interactive session on April 2, 2013, but it has already prompted the authorities of the science museum-cum-park to consider an exhibit on space science to commemorate her visit.

Kolkata to get Tagore Centre
 Three scientists and professors have set up a Tagore Centre of Natural Sciences and Philosophy in the city. The centre would  enlighten students and enthusiasts with the bard’s s passion for science.
  The centre plans to set up four schools - the school of Natural Sciences, the school of philosophy and science, the school of science and culture and the school of international collaboration and cooperation.

A 'Clean India' movement begin from Kolkata

  A 'Clean India' movement begin from Kolkata Aiming to create a cleaner India, the Garbage Free India (GFI) citizens' movement flag off its campaign from Kolkata on March 26, 2013, an organiser said. A movement of around 80 current and former Kolkatans from diverse professional backgrounds, GFI will be aided by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), private companies and schools in starting cleaning drives across the city.GFI volunteers will collaborate with students of Chowringhee High School to begin their campaign from the city's Chowringhee Lane area.

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