Mrittikaa

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Archive for Kolkata

Silk cultivation taken up in Sunderbans

KOLKATA, 3 NOV: The state department of Sericulture and Central Silk Board has taken up a project to cultivate Eri Silk in the Sunderbans.
The poverty alleviation project funded by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), has been formulated to provide training and required infrastructure for silk cultivation to the farmers in the Sunderbans who lost their agricultural land after cyclone Aila last year.
Ingress of saline water has left their land unfit for agricultur. The project aims at providing them an alternate livelihood and at the same time boost silk production in the state.
Mrs TS Raji Gain, general manager of Natural Resource Management Centre, Nabard, said the reason why Sunderbans was preferred for the project is that the Eri silkworms feed on Castor plant that can grow on saline land, which is abundantly available in the Sunderbans. And, it can also be a rehabilitation project for the farmers who have lost their land in Cyclone Aila.
The annual outlay for the project is Rs 35 lakh and Nabard is extending the financial support. Altogether 35 beneficiaries for the first year have already been identified in the Sunderbans.
The project would start from Chandanpiri village in Namkhana, South 24-Parganas, and will be replicated later in other parts of the Sunderbans.
Two NGOs would be implementing the project at the ground level. While AIM, an NGO, would co-ordainate training programmes among the farmers, monitor the expenditure and extend the project, Chandanpiri Sri Ramakrishna Ashram would take up plantation, rearing and grassroots training of the farmers. The project has just started and at present plantation of Castor plants is going on in Chandanpiri.
The Central Silk Board would extend support services like resource development programme for those who will monitor the project.
They will organise trainings for the farmers and also take them on a study tour to Cooch Behar where Eri Silk is widely cultivated.
A cocoon market would be developed close to the city though the area has not yet been identified. Silk could also be brought directly from the village co-operatives. A private export company has already approached the Silk Board for buying all the silk produced in the first phase of the project.

Soma Basu

Toying with high toxic metal with ease

KOLKATA, 1 SEPT: At a time when the state pollution control board has taken up a drive to phase out lead, a toxic-metal, innumerable lead-battery units in the city not only continue to cough out lead aerosol and dust, but also ignore the safety of labourers working in these units.
There are about 100 small or medium lead battery units operating on the stretch of APC Road from Manicktala Crossing to Khanna Crossing. While some of the units in this area, better known as Peyara Bagan, have trade licences, some operate without it. The narrow lanes could be seen having a smoke-filled one-room workshop where men are seen melting lead. Neither do they have gloves nor masks to protect them from lead dust and aerosol, acid fumes and the molten metal (see sns photos).
Mr Prasanta Barui, a worker in one of the factories in the area, said: “My brother and I have developed stomach problems. But these are occupational hazards. We do not have a choice but to work here.”
Mr Barui and his brother do not have a single document to prove that they work for the battery unit. Most of the men are hired from the city outskirts and they are not kept at the same unit for more than four to five years. “We cannot claim compensation in case we meet with an accident as the owner can any day say that we are not his employees,” said Mr Ram Karmakar, another worker in the unit.
“Most of the people are forced to quit jobs within five years as they contract diseases,” said Mr Sanat Paul, who suffers from lead neuropathy, a disorder caused by lead poisoning. Mr Paul was an employee of a battery unit almost 12 years ago. His job was to knead red lead and acid and spread the mixture out on a plate that are used to make the structural units of large lead batteries. This is a hazardous process as per Factories Act, 1948.
According to a scientist with the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), lead is the most widely studied toxic metal and the WHO has declared that there is no safe limit for lead in human body. While its adverse effect on the central nervous system and kidneys is known as clinical disorder, under-developed IQ level is the sub-clinical effect mostly seen in children. “The government had made it mandatory that anywhere where lead is used or processed, a 30-metre high chimney should be put up with a suction mechanism. However, primitive industries seldom follow the guidelines. The way they get the scrap lead is also illegal,” he said. Mr Sandipan Mukherjee, member secretary of WBPCB, said that the board would soon look into the matter.

Soma Basu

Eastern states moot regional tarrif

KOLKATA, 30 AUG: Pitching a strong demand for ‘climate compensation’, Mr SP Gon Chowdhury, managing director of West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC), today said that the feed in tariff fixed by the Centre should be revised.
For this, a letter and a technical paper, prepared with the help of experts and students of Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu), to Dr Farooq Abdullah, Union minister for new and renewable energy, in less than 10 days, said Mr Gon Chowdhury who was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on renewable energy organised by the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industries in a city hotel today. He also spoke to Dr Abdullah, who was present at the seminar, about this.
Mr Gon Chowdhury said that even though West Bengal is a pioneer in Solar Energy generation, because of its climactic condition, it receives lesser solar radiation. And tariff and Power Purchase Agreement duration as fixed by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission is likely to deprive the state of all the investments as Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana leads in terms of power generation.
He said that since their power generation would be more, the western states would be able to give discount to power distribution agencies attracting projects. All the directors of the Green Energy Development Corporations in Eastern states recently met and discussed the problem. “We need to have regional tariff system and so we are preparing a technical document which would state the reasons scientifically. We would handover the document to Dr Abdullah very soon,” he said.
“West Bengal can play a major role in meeting the Nation Solar Mission target. The tidal power project in Sunderbans alone has a potential of 1200 MW,” said Dr Abdullah. Micro-hydels projects on streams and canals would be a success in the state, he said adding that such projects are currently being tried in Punjab. Each micro-hydel project has a potential to generate as much as 25 MW power.
Solar generators would replace Diesel generator in over 100 telecom towers as a demonstration programme. The Army alone uses diesel worth Rs 1,200 crore every year. It has to be reduced and that can only be done by solar and wind energy, he said.

Soma Basu

Minister pitches for sponge iron units

KOLKATA, 26 AUG.: The state needs industries and sponge iron units cannot be done away with, said Mr Sailen Sarkar, environment minister, today. He, however, added that as such units would inevitably cause pollution, they should be made to take remedial measures.
Mr Sarkar was speaking at a meeting on ‘Nirmal Nadi Abhijan’ organised by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board at Paribesh Bhawan today.
He also said that many complaints are received against the sponge iron units and some of them are even slapped with fine. “But if all the units are shut down, people would demonstrate and ask that where would all the workers go?” He also praised the Union minister for environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, for not granting Vedanta environment clearance for its bauxite-mining project in Orissa. He was reacting to the point raised by the WBPCB chairman, Mr PN Roy, that at some places, sponge iron units have polluted ponds that are the only source of drinking water for the nearby villages. “The WBPCB has inspected some of the areas around the sponge iron units. A woman showed us rice that was black in colour. Also, animals have been dying in the village after drinking contaminated water and leaves with residues,” said Mr PN Roy. Mr Roy had also said that the WBPCB has to withstand several coercions from the state and well as the Union government while carrying out its activities.
Mr Sarkar said that even the Centre has allotted more funds for the Yamuna Action Plan than the Ganga Action Plan.
He lauded the newly elected members of municipalities for taking active participation in the Nirmal Nadi Abhijan and said the Kolkata Port Trust should share the responsibility of keeping Ganga clean.
When a representative from an NGO asked about sewage outlets that dump untreated water in the river, Mr Sarkar said: “We have been asking the municipalities to treat their waste water but they say they don’t have money.” It should be noted that there are 324 sewer outlets between Kalyani and Diamond Harbour.
Mr Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist of WBPCB, said that the World Bank would be funding the project aimed at monitoring the rivers online. He said that the state urban development department also had a meeting with the WBPCB to launch an awareness campaign for clean rivers.

Soma Basu

When the cure is worse than the disease

PANAJI, 21 AUG: The measures taken to curb the ill-effects of the oil spill off the Mumbai coast are suspected to have caused more damage to the environment than the spill itself.
The coast guard sprayed toxic chemical dispersants, continuously for seven days after the spill. Dispersants are generally used as the last resort only if a spill takes place far away from the coastline and the sea is too rough for surface management. According to Dr Srikant Fondekar, environment pollution expert and retired scientist with the National Institute of Oceanography, “Despite the spill happening quite close to the shore, dispersants were used. These surfactants need to be tested before use but in this case, even the type of dispersants used is still unknown to us.”
Ideally, equipment like oil booms and skimmers should be used to manage cases like this. But according to a Coast Guard officer, random dispersants, that were at their disposal were sprayed straight-away into the sea, regardless of their toxic content. The oil spill happened after a collision occurred between MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia on 7 August. The incident has already damaged 40 per cent of the mangroves in the state of Maharashtra.
Coast Guard Commandant SS Dasila, said: “The area of the spill was not under the jurisdiction of the coast guard. But, since Bombay Port Trust and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust did not have the necessary infrastructure, we stepped in to help them.” He said that, for seven days, Chetak helicopters conducted about 20 sorties and sprayed dispersants into the sea. He also said that booms were used to contain the spill.
However, Mr Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust, said: “The ships collided in the harbour inside the navigation channel, but the Coast Guard and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), who are in charge of the area, did not do anything to address the issue for the first 24 hours.” The authorities reasoned that the delay in the process of spill management was caused by the sea being choppy on the day of the incident. But the following day, when the sea was quite calm, booms were still not used, he pointed out.
The process of oil treatment began almost 14 days after the ships collided. The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) had offered their services to the government which would involve a strategy, using oil eating microbes, called Oilzapper Technology, just a few days after the spill. But, according to Dr Banwari Lal, director of environmental and industrial biotechnological division, TERI, almost 10 days were lost in deciding, getting clearances and inspections for the proposed method.
The MPCB has identified nine sites in Mumbai where oil from the spill has accumulated. TERI, has already started cleaning operations on Awas beach in Alibaugh at the pilot site. An estimated 2,000 MT of the dirty, sand-oil mix that has infested parts of the coastline, would require only 10 tonnes of the bacteria powder to get cleaned up. 90 per cent of the affected area will be recovered in two and a half months, said Dr Banwari Lal.
Ironically, such indecision regarding adoption of methods, was seen even at a National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan and Preparedness meet, presided over by the Director General of Indian Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, had been held in Dehradun on 18 June.

Soma Basu

Lost in transportation

KOLKATA, 19 AUG: While six out of 25 deer died when they were being relocated to Dobanki camp in the Sunderbans from Parmadan Deer Park in North 24-Parganas, three more were killed following a fight among themselves at the Parmadan Park today.
The deer were being taken from Parmadan to Dobanki to get them acclimatised with forest conditions, before releasing them in the Sunderbans. Mr AK Raha, principal chief conservator of forests, said: “Deer are being relocated from parks, sanctuaries and zoos for the last 10-15 years and about 20 per cent casualty during the process is acceptable.” He said that in case of spotted deer the casualty is more because of over-excitement in the herd. Out of 25 full-grown spotted deer, 12 were bucks and 13 were does.
Mr Raha said that it was quite hot yesterday and the wheels of one of the trucks carrying them had got stuck in mud in the Sunderbans which delayed their release in Dobanki for four to five hours. The deer may have died because of stress and strain. The rest are healthy and will have a health check up at the Dobanki camp. One of the reasons to release deer in the Sunderbans is to maintain the tiger prey base there.
Mr Biswajit Roychowdhury, a member of the state wildlife advisory board, said that the deer
are not used to the estuarine environment in the Sunderbans
and he doubted whether full-grown deer can acclimatise with the conditions and be able to breed soon.
The director of Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve, Mr Pradeep Vyas, said that spotted deer are among the species that are found naturally in the Sunderbans and will not take very long to adapt to the environment. “The forest department had been feeding the deer artificially at the Parmadan Park. If needed, we will do the same in Dobanki. They will be kept in the camp till they have adapted completely to the environment,” said Mr Vyas. The Parmadan Park has enough space for a population of 150 deer but according to the 2010 census, currently there are 450. If sanctuaries become overcrowded, there might be incidents of epidemics, infections and in-fighting and the casualties could be much more, he said.

Soma Basu

‘State overlooked in green energy plans’

KOLKATA, 9 JULY: The state is always neglected when it comes to green energy programmes and power tariffs set by the Centre, said Mr SP Gon Chowdhury, managing director of West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Limited (WBGEDC), today, at a workshop for clean energy entrepreneurs, financers and other stakeholders organised by Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), initiated by the Climate Technology Initiative (CTI) and funded by USAID.
The Centre does everything keeping the interest of western states in mind and the national target to generate clean energy has been set considering the output of Rajasthan and Haryana, he added.
“There is a huge disparity in draft tariff. Climactic zones should be characterised and then tariff should be decided. A uniform national policy on this cannot work,” he said.
He requested financiers and entrepreneurs to invest in different forms of clean energy and stated that they should not always vie for solar power, as there is a national mission on it. He added that very little has been done in comparison to other sectors, such as biomass and wind energy and that the state should be involved in other programmes as well.
He also spoke about the project initiated by the state department of animal resources development, under which a place for biomass energy unit has been identified near Dumdum.

Soma Basu

E-waste menace plagues Bengal

KOLKATA, 11 AUG: The Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) generates 26,000 tons of potential e-waste annually out of which only 2,000 tons is being recycled, stated the report on E-waste Inventorisation in KMA released by Dr Juergen Bischoff, director of GTZ-ASEM at the state pollution control board auditorium today.
The GTZ-ASEM is a joint programme of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Union ministry of environment and forests. The Central and state pollution control board, Indian Chamber of Commerce and GTZ, supported the study. The Business and Industrial Research Division of IMRB International did the research. The report also projected that e-waste generation is likely to increase to 1,44,823 tons by the year 2020.
Mr PN Roy, chairman, West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) said, “E-waste has become a major challenge. The report was a part of the first phase of the programme aimed to tackle the menace. The second phase would involve legal handling of the waste.”
There is currently no e-waste recycling unit in the state. Mr Roy also said that unorganized e-waste recycling units operate out of scattered areas in Kolkata and Howrah and unless the people working at these places are skilled in the recycling process, unorganised operations would continue. He stressed on the fact that there should be no loss of livelihood due to effective handling of e-waste.
Mr Siddhartha, principal secretary, state IT department said that they are working with the WBPCB in the second phase of the programme. “The IT department will provide whatever scientific and technological help is needed in setting up e-waste recycling units in the state,” he added.
Currently, most of the e-waste finds its way to unauthorized scrap dealers and finally to the backyard processors that are engaged in dismantling these wastes and extracting recoverable materials such as copper, lead, gold, iron, aluminium and plastic in by crude methods. The remaining waste invariably ends up in the municipal dumps and the inherent toxins seep into the ground water. The open burning of such waste results in the emission of highly toxic air pollutants that have an adverse effect on human health. Dr Ashish Chaturvedi, technical manager, GTZ-ASEM said that they had conducted a study on detrimental effects of e-waste handling among the workers in the unorganized sector and it was found that they had high concentration of toxic heavy metals in their body.
Dr Dipak Chakroborty, chief scientist of WBPCB said, “It is a requirement that electronic product producers should adopt EPR (extended producer responsibility) and corporate social responsibility, so that e-waste could be handled in an effective way.” He said that ‘polluter pay principle’ is the need of the hour.

Soma Basu

Changing landscapes, changing lives

SAGAR ISLAND, 5 AUG: Cheated. That’s what Mr Uttam Halder feels. The land he once owned on the Lohachara Island (at Sagar Islands) is gradually reemerging after having vanished from the map in the late 1990′s.
Halder, who had left the Lohachara Island, said that boatmen have told him that a landmass is gradually coming up where once Lohachara and Bedford Island were situated.
“My father and grandfather had build houses and tilled the soil on that land. We were not ready to leave the Island. This is the law of the river. If one part is eroded, another part grows. But ours was submerged completely,” he said.
Halder and many others moved to Sagar Islands’ Jibontala and founded a colony.
Another such area where “environment refugees” from Lohachara and Ghoramara have shifted to is Sagar Colony.
Lohachara was known to be the first island that was submerged due to the rising sea level and has been the centre of debate ever since. Prof. Sugata Hazra, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies, said: “A landmass is gradually rising. It is not that Lohachara has reemerged. It is, however, visible in satellite pictures in lowest of low tides.”
He also said that one of the other islands threatened by the rising sea level is Ghoramara, that is inhabited by about 8,000 people, and Jambudwip.
After Lohachara, rapid erosion of Ghoramara Island had led to widespread fear among the inhabitants of the Islands. Most of the people have left Ghoramara and have shifted to Sagar Islands. However, those who stayed behind say that it is not going under water.
The island is just changing its shape. “Ghoramara is eroding from the south but the landmass is extending in the north,” said Asim Mallick, a resident of the island.
Jhuma Haldar’s brothers have left the island with their family. She is the lone caretaker of the five bighas of her father’s property that was eight bighas to begin with. “Three bighas of land, including my younger brother’s house has gone into the sea. But I will stay here as the rate of erosion has gone down and I hope it will stop. The land being very fertile I didn’t have the heart to leave,” she said.
Mr Tushar Kanjilal, a Sunderbans expert and a member of the task force formed by the Union ministry of water resources to assess the damage caused by Aila, said: “It is not unusual for islands to change shape in the Sunderbans. It is a common phenomenon in estuaries. The Sunderbans are not fit for human habitation and nothing can be done if people stay there despite that.”
The district human development reports for South 24-Parganas released recently stated that the region is highly vulnerable to climate change and it is estimated that 15 per cent of the Sunderbans will be submerged by 2020.
But that, to the people who have their home and hearth there, means little.

Soma Basu

Old folk and the sea… at their doorstep

SAGAR ISLAND, 4 AUG: Sea waves touch the courtyard of Amina Bibi, a resident of Dhablat-Shibpur, Boatkhali, and all she can do is reserve a spot on the brick road where she would have to relocate to once her house is washed away.
While people have started collecting bamboo for constructing Durga puja pandals in city parks and grounds, residents of Boatkhali have started collecting bamboos, often from the ring embankments, to build their shanties where they will relocate once their houses are washed away in the high tide due in 10-12 days. According to the residents, their dwellings are submerged each year before the pujas and remain under water for about a month. While the people who live in the huts nearest to the sea bear the greatest brunt, those in the interiors get almost a month to prepare for the adversity.
Mr Gauri Shankar Maity, says that the sea was not so close before. Even 10 years ago, it tooki at least two hours to reach the seashore. Now, only a broken embankment is what separates his house and the sea. “As a kid when we used to go to the beach to play, I had to cross the forests, sand dunes and then came the beach. But over the years, the sea kept eating away into our land and now it’s at our doorstep. With Aila the situation turned worse,” said Mr Maity, a resident of Dhablat-Shibpur, who lost eight bighas of agricultural land to the sea. Once a farmer, he is now in search of a job.
Mr Ratikant Mullick, another resident of the village, said that he has had to rebuild his house thrice. When his house first collapsed during a storm in 1996, he built a shanty on the brick road that was again destroyed as the sea advanced. His house was again destroyed during Aila. “I have neither money nor land to fall back on. I have no other option than to stay here,” said Mr Ratikant.
Amina Bibi’s land has been destroyed because of the ingress of saline water into her fields after Aila. She now weaves fish nets. “One or two members from each family in this village have left for the city or other states in search of jobs,” she said.
According to Prof. Sugata Hazra, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies, even one-degree rise in the temperature will cause 0.78 cm of rise in sea level. In the Sunderbans, the situation is grave since the rising sea level is coupled with land subsidence. Since the late 1960s, the temperature on the islands has risen by over one degree. The number of cyclones has declined but they have grown in intensity.
“There are many who say that the Sunderbans have nothing to do with the climate change. I would invite them to come and stay in the Sunderbans to realise the truth,” said Prof Hazra.

Soma Basu

Kolkata vehicles fail emission deadline

KOLKATA, 29 JULY: The Bharat Stage IV norms, whose deadline was set by the National Auto Fuel Policy as 1 April, 2010, has still not been implemented in the city.
The National Auto Fuel Policy makes it mandatory for all automobiles and fuel (petrol and diesel) to meet BS-III emission specifications in 11 cities from April 1, 2005 and BS-IV norms by April 1, 2010 and BS-III emission norm compliant automobiles and fuels in the rest of the country by 1 April, 2010. The deadline for implementation of Bharat Stage III emission norms all over the country, that was originally set for 1 April 2010, has now been delayed till October this year.
When asked why the BS IV has not been implemented, Mr Ranjit Kundu, state transport minister, said, “We will implement BS-IV norms as soon as the manufacturers are able to supply BS-IV compliant vehicles.” Auto emission expert, Mr SM Ghosh, however, said that the manufacturers have BS-IV vehicles. Consequently, we see so many private-owned BS-IV cars on the roads. “The state government has violated the rules. The state government is deliberately not implementing the norms to keep commercial vehicle owners happy,” he said. Officials of the state transport department say that they have not been given clear instructions on when to stop the registration of BS III vehicles.
The commercial vehicle owners, meanwhile, have refused to buy BS-IV vehicles, stating that they are expensive. They say that a BS-IV compliant bus costs Rs 20 lakh while a BS-III compliant bus comes for Rs 14 Lakh. The taxi owners said that BS-IV taxis come for Rs 4.5 lakh, while BS-III compliant taxis come for Rs 3.75 lakh. Fuel for the BS-IV vehicle is also expensive, Rs 2 more than the BS-III compliant vehicles. Mr Swarnakamal Saha, president, Bengal Bus Syndicate said, “The BS-IV vehicles would not be able to ply on the city roads as they are in a bad shape. The state government should improve the road conditions before implementing BS-IV norms. The BS-IV compliant fuel is also not adequately available in the state.”
Interestingly, several BS-II vehicles still ply on the city roads. Also, several BS-II buses have BS-III painted on their bodies and the drivers seem to know nothing about it. “BS-III is something to do with the permit,” said the driver of a bus on the Salt Lake-Howrah route.
Though the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has brought out a list of four-wheeler models that have been upgraded to BS IV, the Union ministry of road transport and highways issued an order that allows authorities to register BS III compliant vehicles till existing stocks are exhausted.
The deadline for implementation of BS-III was relaxed in other parts of the country after the oil companies said that they need more time to supply cleaner fuel to match the technological upgradation in the vehicles. “If a BS-IV vehicle runs on a BS-II or BS-III fuel, it may suffer damage,” said Mr Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist, state pollution control board.

Soma Basu

Clean air? Not in suburbia

KOLKATA, 26 JULY: Air quality in the outskirts seems to be deteriorating rapidly.
The air pollution level in the city and the outskirts were found to be equal in some parameters considered while monitoring the ambient air quality by the state pollution control board while in others, the level of pollution in the outskirts were found to be exceeding the city.
Even though the vehicular traffic in the outskirts is less, most of the old commercial vehicles that were phased out of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Area (KMDA) zone after a Calcutta High Court order were found plying in the suburbs. The high court banned 15-year-old commercial vehicles, as they didn’t have the requisite devices to check pollution. However, most of these vehicles rule the roads near Baguiati, Hatiara, Garia, Baruipur, Amtala, Khardah, Barrackpore and Dum Dum.
“The vehicular pollution is not the only factor that leads to the rise in pollution level in the suburbs. The industries are also responsible for worsening the air quality,” said Debanjan Gupta, scientist, West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB). He said that the re-suspension of dust also heightens the pollution level. While the permissible limit for Respirable Particulate Matter (RPM) is 50 µg/m3, it was found to be as high as 112 µg/m3 in the suburbs. The city, however, recorded 88.8 µg/m3. The permissible limit of RPM for residential area is 60 µg/m3, while in industrial areas, it is 120 µg/m3. Mr Gupta also said that the weather conditions also play a pivotal role in determining these values.
Mr Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist, WBPCB, said that after the old vehicles were phased out, the pollution in the city did not go down. Benzene, a hazardous air pollutant that causes cancer and a component in automobile oil, has successfully been reduced. “The air quality graph is static right now. This means that the pollution is neither increasing nor decreasing. But with the rise in number of vehicles in the city, it may rise again in the future,” he said. He also said that in the after monitoring some places in the districts, it was found that the air pollution level is increasing menacingly.
Most of the public vehicles plying on the outskirts are ones that had been banned in the city. Lack of testing centres in the districts has given a free hand to the autos that use adulterated oil. “Engine vans” plying in the districts are also highly polluting.
Mr Debabrata Das, superintendent of the Durgapur Sub-divisional Hospital, said there has been an increase in number of patients that come to the hospital with problems such as asthma and bronchitis. “Pollution is one of the major factor leading to this rise in number of patients complaining about respiratory distress,” he said.

Soma Basu

Rally breaks records and norms…

Kolkata, 21 July: The Martyrs’ Day organised by the Trinamul Congress in the city today violated a slew of norms on noise pollution.
While the loudspeakers fitted in silence zones, near hospitals and schools, blared out Nachiketa’s song Ei dushon e te pran bache na, nishash nite chai, cholo hawa bodole te jai…(Can’t live amidst such pollution, want to breathe free, let us welcome wind of change)”, patients in numerous hospitals tossed and turned in their beds praying for the loudspeakers to stop. “People have been screaming into the microphones from morning. I can’t bear it anymore. I just want to run away from this place,” said Ms Namita Saha, who has just given birth to a baby in the maternity ward of Lady Dufferin Victoria Hospital. Loudspeakers have been put up every 6-7 metres away just across the road where the maternity ward is situated.
Loudspeakers were put up from Girish Park metro to Dharmatala irrespective of hospitals such as the Islamia Hospital, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and School of Tropical Medicine in clear violation of the norms set by the state pollution control board, Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, and Calcutta High Court order. The High Court order stated that microphones should not be allowed to operate for any time in the silence zone, i.e. 100 metres around the premises like hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions and courts. Moreover, the High Court order had also stated all the loudspeakers should be fitted with Sound Limiter. And in the commercial areas the noise decibel limit should not exceed 65 dB/Leq. The limit had been set as 55 dB/Leq for residential areas.
“My father is mentally unstable. The noise has driven him crazy since morning,” said Ms Lipika Das, a resident of Chittaranjan Avenue. A loudspeaker is fitted just outside her window.
Mr Tapan Das, proprietor of Das Sounds, who was controlling the amplifiers beneath the main dais in Dharmatala, said that he has put up 375 loudspeakers in the areas such as Park Street, Jyoti Cinema, Corporation Building, Bowbazar Thana, Rani Rashmoni and Dharamtala only. He also said that more than 300 might be fitted in other areas. “The High Court has extended the limit to 90 decibels so we have fitted sound limiters with seven amplifiers at 85 decibels.”
However, none of the amplifiers was seen fitted with sound limiters. Mr Subhas Dutta, green activist, said that Calcutta High Court had set the limit at 65 decibels and not 90 decibels.

Soma Basu

Stench of death disquieting kids

KOLKATA, 15 JULY: Students of the Kolkata Municipal Primary School at Neel Madhab Sen Lane are forced to spend their days amidst the stench of bodies emanating from the Kolkata Police Morgue just opposite the school building (in SNS photo).
Not only the stench, but the sight of the misshapen dead bodies brought to the morgue haunts the children for days. They have no other option than to use the lane (near Mohammed Ali Park) to walk to school and come back.
“Our children witness such horrid scenes everyday and complain after coming home. We have become used to the stench, but it is very uncomfortable when our relatives come to visit us,” said a resident of the area whose daughters study in the primary school.
Ms Rehana Khatoon, councillor of the area, said that the residents have been suffering because of this for a long time. They had organised a camp and signature campaign in November last year. “We had submitted a mass petition to the state health minister to shift the morgue away from the residential area but nothing has been done so far,” she said.
Another resident of the area said that he, along with others, had met Jyoti Basu in 1998 and had urged him to shift the morgue and to use the building for some other purpose. They also met the erstwhile police commissioner and the officials of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. All of them said that the morgue could not be shifted as it is close to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, making it convenient for shifting bodies. However, Jyoti Basu had made arrangements for ACs to be installed at the morgue to prevent a stench. “But there is no maintenance in these places and the stench has become a part of our life now,” said Md Israel Ahmad, who has been living in the area for the past 40 years.
Another resident said: “The unclaimed bodies are not shifted on time and rot here. We have to suffer because of this.” The bodies of the Jnaneswari train accident victims were brought here as the curious children looked on. “We cannot cover their eyes,” he added. The residents also said that they have often agitated and have even stopped officials and staff from taking the bodies inside the morgue or taking them out but to no avail.
The staff at the morgue denied any such incident. They said that the morgue was established at the time of the British rule when the area was not so thickly populated. “The people have learnt to adjust. If they complain, we wash the area with phenyl. It is as normal as neighbours fighting over garbage,” he said. Mr Atin Ghosh, MMIC, Health, said: “I have just joined and have not heard of any problem in that area. But if there is any such issue, we will take steps to ensure that the people don’t suffer.”

Soma Basu

So much for a glitter!

KOLKATA, 12 JULY: The state pollution control board strictures on operation of gold smelting units in the Bowbazaar area has done little to stop the practice that is not only harmful for the environment, but also a health hazard for the workers.
While the toxic metal, cadmium, is used unabated in soldering jewellery, the limit of half a litre of nitric acid and sulphuric acid set by the pollution control board is seldom adhered to.
“We are not scared of the acid fumes. We often need to take some tablets so that our lungs are not damaged,” said an owner of a smelting unit in Harkata Gali in Bowbazar, pouring nitric acid into a bowl that contained a piece of bronze. Soon, the room was filled with brown acid fumes, later pushed out into the open by an exhaust fan.
He also said that they receive a huge quantity of old jewellery from different places. They need to clean them first with the help of acid and then start the process of smelting. The acid fumes are a major source of air-pollution in the area, which is teeming with such units. Four to six smelters are cooped up in tiny rooms, that generally have a small window to let the acid fumes out. Most of these smelters are reported to have major respiratory problems. Residents of the area prefer to rent out rooms to goldsmiths to make money.
“We have tried to stop this a number of times. But despite warning them repeatedly, they carry on with the practice. It is not possible for us to go and check everyday,” said Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of PCB.
The goldsmiths work not only amidst harmful fumes, but also with cadmium which is used in soldering the metal.
Though the general secretary of Banga Swarna Silpi Samity, Mr Tagar Chandra Poddar, denied the use of cadmium vehemently, one of the workers near the branch office of the samity, a stone’s throw from the head office, said, “The samity has no idea in what conditions we work. We are forced to use cadmium.” Inhaling cadmium-laden dust quickly leads to respiratory tract and kidney problems that can be fatal. Mr Poddar also said that it takes Rs 1,800 to get a green category certificate. But the set up of the units are such that it cannot be ensured that the work going on there is in line with environmental norms. Ms Sanchita Mondal, MMIC, environment, said: “This does considerable harm to the buildings. We are planning to launch an awareness drive for the goldsmiths.”
There should be a way to ensure that the workers do not suffer and that the environment can be saved at the same time, she added.

Puja organisers to get award for using lead-free paint

KOLKATA, 7 JULY: Use of lead-free colours by Durga puja organisers will be a criterion for the award of ‘Shera Sharad Nirman Puja Puraskar’ arranged by the department of environment and the state pollution control board.
The pollution control board will also request other organisations to consider this criteria for “Sharad Samman.”
This will not only give an incentive to puja organisers in the state to opt for idols painted with lead-free colours, but also help idol-makers unable to use such colours due to the increase in the cost. This move will also save the rivers in which the idols are finally immersed, as well as their organisms, from lead contamination.
Efforts have been made to phase out colours with a high concentration of lead, especially red and yellow, for the past three years. This bore no results, due to the lack of incentives given to stake-holders. Mr Babu Pal, secretary of Kumartuli Mrit Silpa Sankriti Samity, said, “If we use such colours, the cost of each idol goes up by Rs 600 to Rs 800. The puja organisers simply refuse to pay the increased amount.”
He also cited a number of other problems that have kept them from using environment-friendly colours. “With the colour we use now, we know how many coatings are needed, how it will look after it dries. With the new type of colours, it is very risky,” he said. But, he said that with the incentives given, taking such risks would be easier. They had earlier asked for samples of such colours and some time to try them out first.
Idol-makers are more prone to lead poisoning due to their prolonged exposure to colours that are high on the heavy metal. But since they are comfortable with using old colours, they dodge the question when asked whether they have faced any effect on their health. Many of them do not even know that some very common ailments could be a result of lead poisoning. “The colours we use now have been used by generations of idol-makers, what could be wrong with that,” asked an idol-maker in Kumartuli.
Even though the state pollution control board is set to spread awareness about use of such colours by distributing banners in the city, Howrah and different districts situated on the banks of the river, Mr Pal said that they do not know from where to get such colours. A meeting between the artisans and PCB officials will be held on 24 July to discuss the issue.

Soma Basu

Sun sets on Mandarmoni construction

KOLKATA, 30 JUNE: Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were promulgated in Mandarmoni, stopping all illegal construction near the beach. This happened after a mob from the nearby villages forced police to release labourers caught red-handed carrying out construction near the Mandarmoni beach, violating the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The restriction is, however, limited to transport of construction activities and material and will not affect tourists. In reaction to this, a section of local Trinamul leaders in East Midnapore has threatened a movement similar to Nandigram if locals, dependent on the tourism industry, are deprived of their livelihoods.
On 17 June, construction activities were in full swing when the additional SP, Mr Rishikesh Meena, raided the spot and detained five labourers for interrogation. Soon a mob from the nearby village gheraoed him and forced him to release the detainees.
“Since East Midnapore is a sensitive area, our officers had to release them,” said Mr AK Biswas, SP, East Midnapore.
Mandarmoni falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone category-III and almost all of the hotels on the beach are in clear violation of the CRZ notification and Environment Protection Act. Moreover, Calcutta High Court had also banned construction on the beach.
Mr Mamud Hossain, saha-sabhadhipati of East Midnapore zilla parishad, said: “The coastal regulation zone is very vague. The government should have marked a line beyond which there can be construction.” If a HC order is being violated, then the hotel owners who are sitting safely in Kolkata should be arrested, he added.
Mr Rishikesh Meena said that 16 people were named in an FIR lodged with the Ramnagar Police Station since they had stopped policemen from carrying out their duties. East Midnapore district magistrate, Ms Archana Meena, said action would be taken against the hoteliers.
Mr Sitangshu Giri, pradhan of the Kalindi gram Panchayat, asked why the government doesn’t think of environment when many VIPs and VVIPs from the city come to spend their vacations here.
“If Haripur can have a nuclear power plant, why can’t Mandarmoni have a few hotels? What happens to CRZ when it comes to Digha? If the government keeps on oppressing like this, there will soon be a protest movement,” he said.
In a meeting held in Mandarmoni a couple of days back, some Trinamul leaders had said that there will be a Nandigram-like movement if people are deprived of their livelihoods. The Trinamul MLA, Mr Deeptendu Adhikari, also attended the meet.

Soma Basu

In Sunderbans, postmasters are gods

KOLKATA, 28 JUNE: Several residents of Kalitala, North 24-Parganas, have alleged that the postmaster of the Kalitala post office has been taking bribe to disburse money meant for Aila victims. He has also been accused of withholding NREGA wages.
The Kalitala post master, Mr Ramen Mandol, allegedly charges Rs 200 to pay the relief of Rs 10,000 to the Aila victims and anything between Rs 20 to Rs 50 to help issue job cards and pay the pending wages for the work done under NREGA in the area. Similar allegations have come up against Mr Naru Biswas, postmaster of Parghumti.
“The postmaster have been paying Rs 2,000 to Rs 7,000 to whoever he wants. Some people who don’t even live in the area but possessed land have received the money. But those whose houses were damaged are yet to get the payment,” said a resident of Kalitala. He said that the postmaster said that the pradhan of the Kalitala gram panchayat has given him a list and he has been giving the money to the people whose names feature on the list. Many people living in the same house have got as much as Rs 30,000 while other victims have got nothing, he said.
However, the pradhan of the Kalitala gram panchayat, Mrs Deepti Mondol, said that she has not given any list to the postmaster. She also said that payment of Aila relief and NREGA wages is not pending in the area.
The Basirhat post office disburses the funds under NREGA and Aila relief to the Hatgatcha post office that provides money to both the Kalitala and Parghumti post offices.
The Hatgatcha post master, Mr Aditya Das, said: “Payment of a lot of money is pending. We have been asking the Basirhat post office to send us money. We have also heard of the allegations that the Kalitala postmaster and Parghumti postmasters take bribe but we don’t have any proof.”
The Kalitala postmaster, Mr Ramen Mandal, said that he is being victimised and that he has not taken any bribe. Mr Gopal Mondol, a member of the Kalitala gram panchayat and a Trinamul Congress leader, said that this is being done by a section of people who belong to the Opposition party to malign Mr Ramen Mondol and the gram panchayat’s image.
“Demonstrations are being held and a deputation is being prepared by those people just to destabilise us. Also, a postmaster has signatory authority to give Rs 5000 only at a time. How can he pay Rs 10,000, said Mr Gopal Mondol.
The Basirhat SDO, Ms Anamika Majumdar, said she has not heard of any such thing.

Soma Basu

Lonely chimp dies in zoo

KOLKATA, 26 JUNE: A 24-year-old male Chimpanzee, Tuzo, died in Alipore zoo yesterday. This has created widespread apprehension among wildlife enthusiasts about poor infrastructure in the zoo,
Tuzo, which was brought from UK in 1997, is the second chimpanzee to die in the zoo this year. According to Mr Raju Das, director of Alipore Zoological Garden, Tuzo died because of severe infection in his liver.
His lungs and heart were also damaged. He had not been eating properly for the last seven days. “He died of multiple organ failure and old age,” he said. However, expected of lifespan of chimpanzees in captivity could be 35 to 40 years.
Though the parts of the zoo is being renovated the chimpanzee was kept in its enclosure and when signs of illness became apparent he was attended by the veterinary doctors there. Mr Das said he was not shifted to the vet hospital as “there was no need to. These are big animals and they need different sort of enclosure.”
In April, a 22-year-old female chimpanzee, Jessy, died after falling from a tree in the zoo. It was claimed that the chimpanzee was under the effect of the tranquillisers. She had found her enclosure open and had escaped to climb a tree.
A member of state wildlife board said: “The chimpanzees are in a pathetic condition. They are mostly targeted by the visitors. Security guards say that it is not their work to stop the people from teasing the animals.”
The space crunch in the zoo adds to the animal’s woes, he added. There are two chimpanzees ~ Babu and Rani ~ left in the zoo now.

Soma Basu

Fisherfolks reject CRZ pre-draft

DIGHA, 23 JUNE: The National Coastal Protection Campaign (NCPC), a conglomeration of fishworker groups including the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), and environmental groups have jointly rejected the ministry of environment’s ‘pre-draft’ Coastal Regulation Zone 2010 notification calling it anti-people, anti-environment and pro-industry.
The fishworkers’ forum said that most of the concerns and issues raised during the public consultation process undertaken by the Union minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, between August 2009 and March 2010 have been ignored in the ‘pre-draft’, despite assurances from the Minister that these would be taken on board.
Many of the recommendations contained in the “Final Frontier Report”, submitted by the Dr MS Swaminathan committee in 2009, have been completely ignored. On the issue of port development, the Swaminathan committee had recommended a moratorium on new ports until their cumulative impacts were studied. However, the pre-draft makes no effort to control the growth of ports through a zoning system that keeps port developments at least 25 kms away from the most critical habitats (CRZ 1 areas).
Mr Bakul Kumar Bar, president, Dakhsinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF) said: “The fragile coastline of the state is threatened by a variety of development projects including the proposed nuclear power plant at Haripur, a chemical industry hub in Nayachar and the special tourism zones in Mandarmoni and Bakkhali, while the proposed deep sea port at Sagar Island will negatively impact the Sundarban eco-system.”
There are currently over 300 ports proposed along the coast of mainland India, of which over 200 are notified. Besides its own impact, port development is invariably accompanied by other industries, power plants, railway lines, highways, hotels, SEZs, residential complexes, etc. that can have multiple detrimental impacts on the coast.
“There has been a consistent demand to recognise the rights of fishing communities in management and protection of the coasts. This requires a fundamental shift from providing concessions to recognising the rights of fishing communities” said Mr Matanhy Saldanha, chairperson, National Fishworkers Forum.
The draft had first come out in 1991 but was rejected after widespread protests. There have been 21 amendments in the last 19 years. “There is Bio-medical Waste Act and Municipal Waste Act. E-Waste Act is underway. But Coastal regulation remained a draft in the last 19 years. Encroachments interfere in the lives of the fishermen and they want to keep the coast clean for their own use,” said Mr Pradip Chatterjee, secretary, National Fishworkers’ Forum.

Soma Basu

No state effort to save dolphins

KOLKATA, 21 JUNE: At a time when the Gangetic River Dolphins, declared as the national aquatic animal by the Union ministry of environment and forests recently, are on the verge of extinction from the state, the state forest department has no plans yet for their preservation.
The department is completely oblivious of the change in Gangetic Dolphins’ migration trend and also number of them killed over the years. “Dophins are already protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and we have no other scheme as of now. The divisional forest office in Durgapur has, however, been told to formulate a scheme. Once it is ready we will send it to the Centre for approval,” said Mr SB Mondal, chief wildlife warden.
Even though some of them can still be sighted duping the ferries and launches in the murky waters of Ahiritolla and Babughat, their numbers are fast dwindling. Irrawaddy dolphins have outnumbered Gangetic dolphins in the Sunderbans due to rise in salinity, which was once a hot spot for these mammals. The high level of salinity has altered their migratory trends pushing them upstream. Many of the Gangetics dolphins from the state have now moved towards Bihar.
However, the risk persists with high heavy siltation in the rivers towards the north. “Dolphins prefer deep waters but due to high siltation there are chances of their nose getting stuck in the silt moulds resulting in their death,” said Dr Sujit Chakroborty, former joint director, Zoological Survey of India.
The Ganges River Dolphin is also threatened by accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and poaching for their oil. Construction of barrages, dams and ports have separated groups in which they habitat. “Though killing dolphins is not a trend yet in the state, these mammals often fall prey to curiosity as people in rural areas think they are ‘matsyakanya’ (mermaid). Dolphin meat is often sold illegally in some markets in Murshidabad,” said Dr Chakroborty.
The River Dolphin inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. It is estimated that their total population is around 2,000, and they are recognised as ‘highly endangered’ in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972). The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) set up by the Government of India will spend Rs 15,000 crores over the next 10 years for cleaning the river Ganga in the wake of threat to river dolphin due to pollution.

Soma Basu

The Gangetic Rivet Dolphin, one of the very few left...

City defies aqua sale checks

KOLKATA, 17 JUNE: Many shops from narrow lanes to up market malls in the city are doing brisk business by selling banned aquatic animals and products procured from black markets on the city outskirts that are seldom checked by the authorities.
Even after the environment ministry issued a draft guideline ~ Aquarium Fish Breeding & Marketing Rules 2010 ~ on 9 June, to regulate selling and breeding of aquarium fish, many varieties of ornamental fish, newts, live corals and sea fans are seen displayed and sold in aquarium shops.
Not only small shops in Hatibagan, Gouribari and Sealdah area, but also a shop in City Centre, Salt Lake, exhibit live corals and sea fan in a marine aquarium. However, the shopkeeper of the aquarium stall in City Centre refused to disclose the rates of the live corals and anemones.
Another shopkeeper in Burtolla area, in Santoshpur, said that everything is available at a price. Banned products like Parrot fish, Clownfish, Damsels, live corals, anemones, several varieties of sharks and even seahorses can be bought given a delivery time of 15 days. Fish modified by injecting colour in them are also found in such shops. One such variety, tri-colour Parrotfish, comes for Rs 550 to Rs 900. Sea anemones bought from Chennai are sold at the rate of Rs 400-500 while those imported from Bangkok are sold at Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500.
Asian Arowanas or vastu fish, an easily available freshwater fish species, is already on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list and is imported from Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
“We get all our supplies from Dasnagar, Howrah. The whole area is known for fish sale and almost all varieties of fish and other aquatic organisms are available there. There is no such distributing company. Imported fish are brought there first and then is supplied to the city shops,” said an aquarium shop owner.
Another such place where wide varieties of ornamental fish are available is the market at Galiff Street on Sunday mornings. A member of Kolkata Aquarium Club and frequent visitor to Galiff Street market said that often many banned varieties of fish are sold there. “People buy banned items since they are sold openly. They don’t even know the fish or the coral they are buying is illegal. But we conduct awareness campaigns against artificially coloured fish to make general buyers aware,” he said.
While an official of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) said that they do not have enough manpower to go and check whether norms are being flouted, the state chief wildlife warden, Mr SB Mandal, said. “How can we conduct a raid without a complaint being lodged against a particular shop,” he asked.
The guidelines also states that no establishment may keep or sell any species that cannot easily be acclimatized to aquarium life, or that may be endangered species due to over-collection. No establishment may keep or sell artificially coloured fish, cyanide-or drug-caught fish, keep fish tank animals in excess of the maximum number permitted for each species per tank.

Aila victims still in search of a livelihood

KOLKATA, 12 JUNE: A hasty move by the district administration of North 24-Parganas has deprived Aila-hit people in the Sunderbans of an opportunity to earn money for two months through a scheme ~ cash for work (CFW) ~ initiated by some NGOs in the area.
Even after the Pradhan of Kalitala gram panchayat, Mr Debesh Mondol, and the nodal officer of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) cell in North 24-Parganas, Mr Joly Chowdhury, admitted that many labourers have their wages pending for six to eight months, district magistrate, Mr Vinod Kumar, said that there has been no irregularities in the payment of wages. He told the NGOs ~ Save The Children, ADRA, ACTED and Concern Worldwide ~ supported by the European Commission and Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), to focus on other areas to avoid duplication of NREGA.
After almost two months, he called another meeting to clarify his suggestion and told the NGOs to continue with the scheme.
The DM said that there has been no irregularity in NREGA but people in the Aila-hit villages are still wating for their wages in many areas of Hingalgunj Block, Gosaba Block and Sandeshkhali-I and II. A labourer in Shamshernagar, Dulai Mondol, said: “In this condition, I have no other way left. I am thinking of going to the city to look for work.”
Mr Joly Chowdhury, said that there have been delay in paying the labourers on time because the post office and the bank takes a lot of time to release the draft.
When contacted, the DM, Mr Kumar said, after he had told the NGOs to stop the scheme: “It was just a suggestion not an order.” Soon he called for a meeting to clarify this to the NGOs.
However, Ms Poonam Mishra, programme officer of ADRA-India, said: “The DM had clearly told us not to go ahead with this scheme. And after two months he says that it was just a suggestion? Our project was an 11-month emergency programme and we have already lost two months.”

Soma Basu

Care lost at healthcare facility

KOLKATA, 7 JUNE: Despite being served a showcause notice citing alleged non-compliance of Biomedical Waste (management and handling) Rules, 1998, by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), Calcutta Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) was found flouting norms by not separating untreated biomedical waste and domestic waste on its premises.
The assistant superintendent of CMCH, Dr Susmita Nag, claimed that human anatomical waste (body tissue, organs, placenta, body parts) are kept in yellow bags in a vat near the Eden Building on the CMCH premises and a private operator, M/s SembRamky Environmental Management Pvt. Ltd, approved by the state government takes care of its disposal. Biomedical wastes including plastic and sharp instruments are kept in blue bags and are disinfected at the hospital after which gloves are shredded and sharp instruments are destroyed so that they cannot be reused. Black bags containing domestic waste are kept in a vat near Gate no 1 of the CMCH that is cleaned every morning.
But this correspondent found that blue, yellow and black bags were kept together in two vats near gate no 1. There was no separate vat for yellow bags (human anatomical waste) near the Eden building. Not only this, syringes and tubes containing blood samples, gloves and various kinds of bottles were found littered at the back of the vat enclosure near gate no 1. A staff of the CMCH canteen said: “The vat is emptied every morning at 9 am. Just the vats are cleaned and not the area around.” By the end of the day, the vats are seen spilling over it and the waste that falls around is left to rot. Gloves, syringes and blue bags were seen lying at different spots in the CMCH. The gloves were not shredded and needles were intact on the syringes.
A cleaning staff of the hospital said: “I don’t know what blue, yellow and black means. We just empty the dustbins near gate no 1 and a vehicle comes to clean the vats regularly.”
The senior environment engineer of Waste Management Cell of WBPCB, Mr Shyamal Adhikari, said that CMCH has given a very brief reply to the showcause notice it was served. “The CMCH authorities have said that they will comply by the bio-medical waste management norms. We are having discussions on the issue and the WBPCB decision will be known by the end of this week.”
Also, syringes, medicine bottles, blood bags, blood-soaked gauges, tapes and cottons were seen lying on a narrow passage from the CMCH to School of Tropical Medicine. Empty blue, black and yellow bags were also seen lying in the heaps. Only red bags that are supposed to carry infectious waste were not seen anywhere.
Not only bio-medical waste, domestic waste is seen dumped everywhere. Heaps of torn pillows and mattress, masks and aprons used by doctors and plastic bags were seen piled up at every other nook and corner away from the main passages. Blood is seen flowing in nullas and some of the drains are used as open toilets.

Soma Basu

Conents of blue and yellow bags seen littered on the CMCH premises.


Blue, yellow and black bags dumped in a vat near gate no.1 of the CMCH.


Blood samples lying near the vat enclosure near gate no 1 of the CMCH.

Kolkata ~ a stranger to re-cycling still

KOLKATA, 4 JUNE: The city which produces 8,000 metric tons of e-waste each year, ranks third in the country when it comes to e-waste generation, thanks to the lack of re-cycling and treatment units.
Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer of West bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), said: “There are no laws to check e-waste in the city. A draft E-Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2010 has been proposed by the Union ministry of environment and forest and it will have to formulate a way to collect, store and dispose e-waste. The Union government is planning to set up collection centres in various parts of the state.”
However, Prof. Sadhan Ghosh, director, Centre for Quality Management System of Jadavpur University, said that there are many loopholes in the draft which was made public in April. “Considering the economy of our country, the draft should have considered 10 years instead of five for renewal of authorisation certificate from the concerned PCBs. The penalty for defaulters is also not clearly stated in the draft. Also, electronic goods producers should be levied cess that would motivate them to obey the rule,” he said.
A study, E-Waste: Flooding the City of Joy, conducted in 2007 by Prof. Ghosh in association with Toxics Link, New Delhi, states that some of the unorganised units in the city recycle this waste by burning them openly, thereby exposing themselves to dangerous toxic and carcinogenic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium.
Some of the major hotspots for e-waste in the city are Chandni Chowk, Princep Street, Kankurgachi, Kadapara, Rajabazaar, Howrah, Topsia and Grey Street where various forms of electronic items such as washing machines, television, DVD players are dismantled and recycled.
Most of the big companies, public and private, are disposing of their waste through official tenders in newspapers. Some have in recent years embraced the exchange policy wherein they return the old computers and get some discount on the new purchase. And in some cases, where the e-waste generation is small, the companies just sell it to the local scrap dealers. Recently, Union minister for environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, had said in Parliament that the ports in the country are ill-equipped in checking e-waste import.

Study of fish in the offing!
KOLKATA, 4 JUNE: Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer of West Bengal Pollution Control Board, said in Writers’ Building yesterday that rising level of mercury in fish in the state is a great threat and the board is planning to conduct a study to access the extent of contamination in fish sold in local markets in the city. The study will be initiated soon.

Soma Basu

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