Kolkata: The West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) will very shortly put up a continuous ambient air quality monitoring station (CAAQMS) near Dhapa — the city’s landfill site — to keep an eye on the pollution level on a real-time basis and take remedial measures. Besides, WBPCB has already deployed two fire-tenders to douse flames in the mountain of garbage.
Reacting to the series of TOI reports on Dhapa waste burning, WBPCB chairman Kalyan Rudra said: “We are setting up a CAAQMS on the Leather complex campus to monitor the air quality on a real-time basis. We have closed all illegal leather burning units in the vicinity. The fire-tenders have started working 24X7. So some qualitative difference is expected.”
According to a WBPCB officer, the CAAQMS will serve dual purpose of monitoring the air quality of Dhapa as well as the leather manufacturing units.
There has been no air-quality monitoring station in and around EM Bypass, where the fulcrum of city growth has shifted. Earlier, a CAAQMS was supposed to come at Science City, but eventually WBPCB had to retreat for non-availability of an appropriate spot.
The fire at Dhapa, a never-ending blaze, is self sustained by continuous supply of methane, a highly flammable gas produced from the tonnes of garbage. Around 4,500 tonnes of municipal wastes get dumped daily even though the site has exceeded its saturation level a decade ago. “The problem with Dhapa is that assorted wastes are on fire. It produces toxic chemicals that trigger chain reactions in our body with long-term health issues,” said professor Amitava Bandyopadhyay, an expert.
WBPCB is also deploying two more fire-tenders at the Pramod Nagar dumpyard on the northern fringe of the city, where five civic bodies dump their wastes. “The landfill site there gives us similar nightmarish experience. The smoke from the dump site affects the air quality of a vast area in north Kolkata. The smoke is certainly one of the reasons why the CAAQMS at Rabindra Bharati University always gives scary stats. The wind flow — from north to south — carries the particulate matter to large areas of north Kolkata, said a senior WBPCB scientist.
Thermal inversion in winter, which is already at play, slows down vertical wind movement due to lower radiative temperature on the surface. This causes slower dispersal of pollutants in the air. Toxic elements of waste burning thus hang longer in the lower strata of the atmosphere, forcing us to breathe in poison, explained environmentalist Sudipto Bhattacharya.