KOLKATA, 4 JUNE: Neither the forest department headquarters nor the wildlife wing of state forest directorate or the state bio-diversity board has any record of species of flora and fauna lost in the last 100 years due to urbanisation in the state.
The additional principal chief conservator of forests, wasteland development corporation, Mr Rakesh Sinha, had no clue about the species that have gone extinct due to setting up of satellite townships like Salt Lake, New Town and Nabadiganta. He said that the records are with the wildlife wing, state forest directorate.
When this correspondent asked Mr SB Mondal, chief wildlife warden, he said that there is no data on the loss of bio-diversity in the state leave alone the city. However, he said that Rhinoceros population in the state has increases 12 times in 26 years, number of Bison has increased 10 times in 21 years and elephant population has jumped 3 times in 20 years. Mr Anirban Roy, research officer, West Bengal Biodiverity Board, said that although they know that many species have been lost due to urbanization, they have no record of it. On being asked about Marsh Mongoose, a threatened species endemic to East Kolkata Wetlands, Mr Roy said that every year many species are lost due to various reasons and they have recently taken up the work to maintain a register record of such species so that they can be preserved.
Though Calcutta High Court’s ban on 15-year-old vehicles in the city has slowed the rate of air deterioration, scientists say that the city has reached its limit and any more increase in the number of vehicles can pose serious environmental hazards. It should be noted that the city has highest number of people suffering from lung cancer in the country and is closely followed by New Delhi. Dr Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist, West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), said that there has not been any study to relate mortality with air pollution but the city air had a major role to play when it come to cardiovascular or respiratory problems. Though efforts to remove sulphur, lead and benzene from automobile fuel has been successful, aromatics compounds from fuel has still not been phased out. Although many new vehicles can be seen plying on the road, their maintenance is low and after sometime they too are seen emitting smoke.
Dr Chakraborty said that the respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) graph has steadied after the imposition of the ban but it could be the lull before the storm as number of vehicles in the city is increasing at a very fast rate.
Though city dwellers are quite aware of noise pollution nowadays and never hesitate to lodge complaints with police, loudspeakers blaring out political speeches and slogans invading every household near roads and alleys are often ignored. Officials of the State Pollution Control Board said that though there were a couple of complaints lodged during the parliamentary elections last year, people chose to ignore noise pollution during the civic polls this year. “What is the use of complaining? One of these people who are on the other side of the loudspeaker will be our councillor in the time to come, “ said Nirupa Ghosh, a resident of Ward No 9 in Salt Lake. The pollution control board has studied noise pollution caused by vehicles, during festivals like Diwali and Durga puja, and industries. But they have kept away from pollution caused during political rallies and campaigns. Dr Debasish Chakraborty, scientist, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, said that in the last one year, 44 per cent of mass complaints were registered while 56 per cent complaints were registered by individuals. The complaint number for noise pollution is 033-23358212 but only during festivals.
Global Warming is the reason why the city has to put up with unbearable heat in summers, chilly winters and delayed monsoons. According to scientists, 2008, 2009 and 2010 saw fall in solar minima when the temperature was expected to be comparatively low but still the mercury soared during summers which explains that the abnormal warming was due to Carbon-di-oxide.
“It is the period when there is minimum solar flares but still year 2009 was recorded to be the warmest year. Year 2010 has recorded highest temperature in 135 years. The year started with such high temperatures when compared with 1998 and 2005, that it is expected to set new records,” said Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the Jadavpur University’s School of Oceanographic Studies. Global warming has effected the whole climactic circle and this is the reason why monsoons were delayed last year. However, this year it is expected to arrive on time, Dr Hazra said. Dr Hazra also said that abnormal rise in temperature of Bay of Bengal is observed. The Bay of Bengal is warming up at the rate of 0.45 per cent every decade which is quite higher than the 0.2 per cent rate of global warming. “This is why we see such disturbances in the ocean nowadays,” he added.
City students feel that the compulsory subject, Environment Science, in under-graduation courses has done little to create awareness and inform students about environmental hazards. Priyanka Roy, a first-year student of Humanities, said: “We only study environment science before examination. It has almost no effect on students who have become addicted to air-conditioners and electronic gadgets.”
Suparna Saha, a third-year student of Humanities, said that though she does not know what exactly Climate Change is all about, she knows that earth is being exploited to its limit and use of renewable sources of energy should be promoted. Another student, Sudip Gupta, said that people do not use environment-friendly products because they are less attractive and more expensive.
Second year students of Zoology, Arindam Roy and Dibyadeep Chatterjee, said that the biggest problem the city is facing is automobile pollution and water pollution. Dibyadeep also complained about the drainage problem in the city. Arindam said that government phased out old vehicles but most of the dilapidated buses belong to the state government.