Sunday, August 02, 2009


From : THE TIMES OF INDIA, 31-07-2009


Vision of pollution -free Kolkata
Subhro Niyogi TNN

What will happen if the high court order is followed in letter and spirit and all polluting vehicles are booted out. You will live four years longer. Babies will be born healthier. And Kolkata will no longer be the asthma and lung cancer capital. Automobile engineers and experts are confident that air toxicity, which is at alarming levels in Kolkata, will dip sharply once the old smoke belchers are gone. There can be only one outcome the city's air will become cleaner. There will be a perceivable drop in carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and other toxic elements , state pollution control board chief scientist Dipak Chakraborty said on Thursday , just two days before the blanket ban on pre- 93 commercial vehicles, including twostroke non-LPG autorickshaws.

Clean Technology

Kolkata's air quality is among the worst in the country, which gets even more dangerous in winter. If the government cracks down on 15-year-old vehicles, there will be a remarkable change from day 1 itself , said automobile engineer Prabir Kumar Bose, director of the National Institutes of Technology in Silchar and Agartala. New vehicles have more fuel-efficient engines. Not only do they use less fuel for combustion , the process is more complete. Hence, there are less pollutants in the emission, he explained. The vehicles that face the phase-out axe were built at a time when engines in India did not incorporate lean burn technology . They emit a lot of particulate matter because of incomplete combustion of fuel. Technology has since advanced manifold. Now, the amount of fuel to be fed into the combustion system is electronically controlled . It is much more efficient, Bose said.

City Livable Once More

The epidemic-type situation, specially with regard to child asthma and lung cancer , will change. Kolkata will become a livable city once again with a better quality of life, said Centre for Environment director A K Ghosh, pointing to a National Cancer Research Institute-Calcutta University research that showed how lung cancer among non-smokers was at an alarming level in Kolkata due to vehicular pollution. The study had conclusively shown that the so-called lifestyle diseases heart attack , kidney failure, lung disorder, impotence and memory loss could also be triggered by air pollution. Researchers found evidence that foul air is responsible for rise in morbidity and mortality. Pollution is the catalyst that triggers cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in Indian cities. Urban stress, sedentary lifestyle and genetic disorder compound the risk, acting as a fatal cocktail, says Twisha Lahiri who was the lead author of the study. The team had initially focused on high incidence of lung cancer in Kolkata (a shocking 18.4 per 100,000 against 11 per 100,000 in other metros). But it soon discovered that while lungs took the first hit (45% people in Kolkata have reduced lung function), nearly all vital organs were subsequently affected by pollutants.

Now Or Never

Ultra-fine particles (0.1 micron) slip into the bloodstream, and invade the heart, kidney , liver and brain. During autopsy in unnatural deaths, we have found that pollution affects the brain. It causes transient loss of memory, an Alzheimers-like disease. Continuous exposure to high levels of pollution, as we have in Kolkata, could even effect the gene pool. Already, a lot of congenital problems are being detected among children in this city. Since it takes 15-20 years for a disease to manifest , it will take a while to know how bad weve been hit, said Lahiris co-researcher Manas Ranjan Roy. Alarmingly, nearly 50% of children in Kolkata suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma among the highest in the country.

Live Longer

But doctors are confident that if the polluting vehicles stop plying, average life expectancy can go up by at least four years. If we dont act today, life expectancy will dip further. Pollution is gnawing at life, corroding organs and even affecting babies in the womb. It is responsible for rise in pre-natal diseases, said Institute of Child Health professor and National Neonatal Forum of India secretary Joydeb Roy. An hours stroll in Kolkata is equivalent to inhaling particulate matter and toxic gases in 20 cigarettes. If the foul air is cleaned up, healthier babies will be born and they will grow up as healthy children, said Roy. Neurologist Sandip Chatterjee is confident that the increasing incidence of Alzheimers and brain stroke will be checked once pollution subsides. Pointing to a Dutch experiment on the effect of diesel emission that was nearly 70% less polluting than the fuel in use in Kolkata, he said a half hour exposure had led to significant changes in the brain. A series of experiments in Mexico City showed that pollution led to collection of peptide AB42 that causes Alzheimers . In Taiwans Kaohsiung, a study of 20,000 hospital admissions showed incidence of brain stroke was higher when the city recorded higher levels of pollution. In California, there were several cases of firefighters suffering from brain cancer due to inhaling diesel fumes. Since all these cities are less polluted than Kolkata, that is what is happening to our brains too. Hopefully, everyone will understand the need to cut down on pollution and act responsibly, Chatterjee said.

How Pollution Is Affecting You

Macrophages a vital defense mechanism against bacteria and virus get so busy fighting the pollution that they forget the real function, leaving the lungs vulnerable to bacteria and virus attacks. During this, an enzyme called elastase is released which degrades the lungs elastic tissues.
Ultra-fine particles (0.1 micron) break down low density lipoprotein measure, forming a plaque on the arterial wall and reducing the space for blood flow. This triggers heart attacks.

They stimulate blood clotting mechanism, causing thrombosis or cardiac arrhythmia.

Gene pool could be affected. Congenital problems are being detected among kids. It will take 15-20 years to know how badly we are hit Lung cancer is highest among metros at 18.4 per 100,000 ( national average 11 per 100,000 ). 45 people have reduced lung function. 50 % children have respiratory problems .
(* National Cancer Research Institute-Calcutta University research)

From : THE TIMES OF INDIA, 01-08-2008


City Breathes Easy As Pre- 93 Vehicles Comply With Order
Team TOI

Kolkata: A new Kolkata was born on August 1. Or should we say the city of joy went back to the golden days of the early 1980s ? It certainly felt that way. Minus the toxic fumes, minus the smoke-belching buses and autos, Kolkata was sheer delight on Saturday.
A survey done by Saviour and Friend of Environment (SAFE) and commissioned by The Times of India confirmed that the air the city breathed on Saturday was never this clean in the last two decades, thanks to the enforcement of the high court order to ban pre- 93 commercial vehicles.
It was as if Kolkata had travelled back in time, to the days when cars didnt jostle for every inch of road space, buses were fewer and autos were yet to arrive. Commuters, even though inconvenienced by the withdrawal of autos and older buses and taxis, loved the transformation. At Shyambazar crossing, where the hydrocarbon count plummeted to just 1 ppm from 19 ppm, people stood on the road in disbelief. Many got down from cars for a breath of fresh air.
Readings taken by SAFE at Dunlop crossing, Shyambazar five-point crossing , Park Circus and the Rashbehari Avenue-SP Mukherjee Road crossing revealed that hydrocarbon levels (which cause liver, kidney and brain damage, and even cancer) dropped by more than 50%. Oxygen count shot up by around 15%, leading to a drop in the percentages of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Suspended particulate matter which causes bronchial diseases and is chiefly responsible for making Kolkata the asthma capital of the country nosedived by 50%. The findings vindicated the green activists stand against older vehicles.
"This was bound to happen. The sharp drop in the hydrocarbon level proves that older vehicles are the major culprits. They emit unburnt fuel into the air that pushes up the hydrocarbon level to dangerous levels. Let us hope that Kolkata will breathe freely like it did on Saturday ", said green activist Subhas Datta, who had filed the petition seeking the withdrawal of 15-year-old vehicles.
After a decade's struggle against pollution , it was a green letter day. As many as 32,000 non-LPG autos, 3,000 buses/ minibuses and 6,000 taxis of pre-1993 make as well as 22,000 trucks stayed off the road. Chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti confirmed that there had been near total compliance by transport operators in Kolkata and there were no major flare-ups . Transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury admitted to some violations on the outskirts but assured that the drive against polluting vehicles would continue unabated.
The 3,000-odd green autos usually crowded out by the black & yellow cousins that use adulterated fuel and spew toxic fumes ruled the roads on Saturday . Though there were no autos on some routes, commuters didnt seem to mind.

Brand new LPG autos cross the second Hooghly bridge while entering Kolkata on Saturday

I can't help saying it now : " Jai ho !"

1 comment:

Haddock said...

if the high court order is followed in letter and spirit and all polluting vehicles are booted out...........
That is the catch 22 situation.
If only we could implement all the rules and regulations framed by our country, then India would be a paradise.


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