Firecrackers on Kali puja, Diwali defile air quality to `very unhealthy’ levels

Kolkata
8 Nov 2018

Bursting of crackers and fireworks for two days on the occasion of Kali puja and Diwali till Wednesday, defying a Supreme Court order, caused the air quality in several parts of the city to dip to "very unhealthy" levels, environmentalists said Thursday.
The situation was aggravated by an overcast sky, light rain in some parts of the city and low wind speed, West Bengal Pollution Control Board chairman Kalyan Rudra said.
The WBPCB chairman, however, refused to draw any conclusion as to whether there was any improvement or worsening of air pollution during the two days compared to previous years.
Asked about the readings at air monitoring stations suggesting very poor air quality, Rudra said, "Our staff will collate all information and analyse. Our monitoring stations will monitor the situation till a week after Diwali and we will chalk out an action plan to combat any situation in future as the Supreme Court order envisaged".
"Due to the present weather situation when the sky is overcast and wind speed is low amid light drizzle for past two days, the suspended particles could not move up and hung around in the air," he told PTI.
The US Consulate's air quality index, which measured the environmental condition at the upmarket Park Street area in the heart of the city, showed particulate matter (pm) 2.5 count as "very unhealthy" at 211 accepted quality level (AQL) at 11 am Thursday "meaning everyone may experience more serious health effects."
Environmentalist Subhas Dutta said authorities should have been more careful in preventing illegal fireworks and crackers from districts which flooded the markets in the city.
He called the pollution control board a "toothless tiger" and said it has been unable to enforce the Supreme Court directions.
Stating that there are some practical problems involved in enforcing the ban on fire crackers except during the two-hour window from 8 pm, Dutta said, "It is difficult to point out the exact decibel count of a fire cracker that has been burst, to pin point where it has happened and who did it in case it happens in a crowd."
However, there has been a palpable reduction in the bursting of fire crackers in the city due to the wide publicity of the apex court's directives and action by police, he said.
Police should act more against manufacturers and sellers of banned fire crackers to ensure a better compliance, he said.
At least 556 people were arrested in connection with bursting of banned fire crackers and disorderly conduct in the city over the past two days.
Till 11 pm Wednesday, police received a total of 50 complaints regarding bursting of fire crackers, an official of Kolkata Police said.
The complaints were mainly from the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, Kasba, Patuli, Thakurpukur in the south and Dum Dum in the northern part of the city, he said.
Environmentalist S M Ghosh said the metropolis earned the dubious distinction of being one of the most polluting cities on Diwali night.
WBPCB's Rudra said the board will analyse the available data on air quality recorded during the celebration.
The PM 2.5 count measured by PCB shot up to 330 at Rabindra Bharati automatic air monitoring station on B T Road in northern part of the city and the count was 373 at Victoria Memorial in central Kolkata at 11 am Thursday.
Dutta corroborated Rudra's statement saying, "The high concentration of particulate matter in the air was not solely due to bursting of firecrackers in the evenings of Kali puja and Diwali but due to present weather conditions as well." (PTI)