The state pollution control board is set to triple the number of air quality monitoring stations across the state from January 1, 2016, to keep track of the rising pollution levels.
“We will be increasing the number of our manual air quality monitoring stations to 72 from the existing fleet of 23. There are also plans to raise the number of automatic stations from five to eight,” Kalyan Rudra, chairman of West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), said.
The announcement comes at a time when India has agreed at the Paris Climate summit to reduce emissions by 33% to 35% by 2030 from the 2005-level. India has also promised to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of CO2 through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
“But we can ascertain how much emission we have to cut down only after we have an idea on how much pollution we are creating at present. The new stations will help us generate this data bank,” a WBPCB official said.
The stations will come up in areas like Darjeeling, Purulia, Bankura and Siuri. The state pollution control board has no pollution data from these areas.
This is in spite of scientists of the Bose Institute pointing out earlier that pollution in Darjeeling had reached alarming levels and could match that of any polluted town in the country.
Air quality monitoring in Kolkata kicked off in 1992 with the help of a limited number of monitoring stations. Different parameters, such as suspended particulate matter (SPM), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone level, carbon monoxide emissions are monitored.
The three new automatic stations are being planned at industrial townships, including Howrah and Asansol. There are five such automatic monitoring stations in the state now, including two in Kolkata – at Victoria Memorial and Rabindra Bharati. These collect data on air pollution throughout the day, round the year.
“Pollution levels in Metros like Kolkata and industrial towns like Asansol and Howrah are higher because of industrial pollution, vehicular pollution and pollution from real estate and other developmental activities. The depleting green cover and lack of open space aggravate the pollution problem,” a WBPCB official said.
While Kolkata has a green cover of less than 5%, open space in the city comprises only around 1% of the entire area. The city has a road space of just around 6%.
“Talks have been held with some universities and colleges to have plots of land within their campuses to set up the monitoring stations. We need safe and secure places where the instruments won’t be damaged,” Rudra said.
But there is a problem of uninterrupted supply of electricity. The stations need uninterrupted power supply, a senior WBPCB official said. “In areas like the Sunderbans where electricity hasn’t reached, people rely on solar power and we are having problems in setting up the stations. But Sunderbans is very important and we need to set up a station there. Discussions are on to undertake a separate study on pollution levels in the Sunderbans,” the official said.