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Kolkata’s Air Quality : Navigating Solutions

Kolkata’s Air Quality : Navigating Solutions
Workshop and Roundtable organised by The U.S. Consulate General Kolkata, in partnership with banglanatak dot com

The air quality in Kolkata has been a cause for concern for a long time now. The discussion on the causes, effects and the creation of actionable plans to arrest further deterioration, too, has been an ongoing process in which all the concerned stakeholders – citizens, corporate houses, social organisations, media and policy planners participate to chalk the way forward. It was in this backdrop that a workshop was organised on September 15, 2016, by the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata, in partnership with banglanatak dot com, a social enterprise specializing in communication for development and the Global Change Program at Jadavpur University to create a platform for discussing the possible solutions to address the air quality challenges of the city.

The workshop was attended by representatives from British Deputy High Commission, Consulate of the Netherlands, Department of Environment  GoWB, Department of Urban Development and Town Planning GoWB, CPCB, Jadavpur University, NEERI, IISWBM, CESC, Coal India Limited, Symbio Greentech Pvt. Limited, Centre for Environment Education, NEWS, Concern for Kolkata, Association for Social and Environmental Department- Calcutta Medical College, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, Yes Bank, TOI, ABP, The Telegraph, Hindustan Times, Ei Samay among others.

Seeking to identify the root cause of the problem, participants deliberated on issues like the air quality indicators and the causes behind the bad air quality bin Kolkata; necessary steps to improve the quality of air before moving on to identify the entities who can take the rectifying measures.

The deliberations led to the creation of a detailed matrix on actions to be undertaken and the identification of individuals, institutions and organisations that can and should take the required steps. The most interesting aspect of this process was the use logic of rights and responsibilities by the participants who also took the next logical step of identifying the key constituents who can help bring about the desired change on both their individual levels as collectively. The discourse was extended to the end which saw the setting up of a five year time period to restore the air quality of the city. 


The key observations of the workshop was presented in a Round Table on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The objective of the exercise was to further codify the divergent thoughts and arrive at a definitive action plan. Representatives from Department of Urban Development GoWB, WBHDCL, Department of Health and Family Welfare GoWB, Department of Power and Non-Conventional Energy Sources GoWB, Department of Environment, GoWB, IPHE, CPCB, NEERI, Jadavpur University, CESC, Symbio Greentech Pvt. Ltd, WWF, SAFE, The Green Bench, ICC, TOI, PTI, ABP, Hindustan Times, Asian Age etc were present in the round table.

Representatives from the Governmental departments talked about the various schemes aimed at improving the quality of air that are at different levels of implementation. They also dwelled upon the future course of action as has been earmarked by the concerned authorities. Participants were also vocal, not only about the need to put a cap on carbon emissions, but also underscored the need to move towards sustainable lifestyles that would include among others, the increasing of the green cover and the greater use of non-conventional energies. Creation of awareness, especially though the use of emerging media was also identified as a part of the solution.
The Round Table closed with commitment by the participants to continue the dialogue. It was decided that a monthly meeting will be hosted and at least five organisations volunteered to take matters forward. 


Kolkata’s Road Map to Clean Air:
There is no magic button by pressing which the quality of the air we breathe can be improved overnight. On the contrary, what is needed is sustained and multiple-pronged effort by all the stakeholders over a period of time, was the feeling of the workshop. Accordingly, an inclusive, though not comprehensive, road map was drawn up that sought to crystallize the action points and assign the responsibilities:
Lifestyle changes – use of biomass stoves, bio-fuel / electricity powered vehicles – to be adopted by families, small businesses using stoves, kilns etc.
Increasing green cover, including but not restricted to the plating of more trees – to be spearheaded by Individuals, Housing Societies, Municipality, KMC, KMDA and other concerned citizens / bodies.
Regulation on use of vehicle and fuel to ensure reduced carbon footprints – to be taken up by the Transport Department, Transport Corporation, Manufacturers and other statutory bodies.
Improvement of Polluted Canals - to be taken up by the Irrigation and Waterways Department.
Improvement of Construction Processes to make a concerted move towards Green Buildings – to be embraced by the PWD, WBHDCL, KMC, KMDA, Construction sector.
Increase Awareness & Advocacy, especially among the youth - to be taken up as a cause by the Education, Health & Environment Department, Schools, NGOs, CSOs, Media.
Data,( including Big Data and Analytics) and Knowledge dissemination – to be facilitated by the Pollution Control Board, NEERI, Research and Academic Institutions.
Proper implementation of laws & regulations – to be ensured by the Pollution Control Boards, Relevant Departments, KMC and the Judiciary.

What is already being done to ensure better air quality:
  •         Green City Mission is covering 127 cities and towns of West Bengal and targets addressing use of appropriate technology, improving walk-ability, promoting innovation, plantation of trees and being energy positive.
  •          “Sobujshree” encouraging planting a tree by family when a child is born
  •          Demonstration site on using waste compost and rain water harvesting for rooftop urban farming
  •          Study for understanding optimal car concentration, source appropriation
  •          Building green highways
  •          Pollution monitoring sites by CPCB
  •          Introduction of waste segregation in New Town and Salt Lake area
  •          Improved soli management in Kolkata and 6 municipalities
  •          Power generation from municipal solid waste, kitchen waste
  •          Alosree scheme for grid based rooftop solar panels
  •          Initiation of project to understand opportunities, options and capacities for electric vehicles  
  •          Solar Grid connections to institutional consumers with an intake of more than 5 KWs, subsidy for use of solar power by social Institutions.
  •          Green capping at Dhapa
  •          Spreading of awareness  in urban slums to address lung problems


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