Experts said trams should be revived to bring down air pollution

Kolkata is in the grip of rising air pollution and multi-pollutant crisis with ranking 23 among a total of 3000 cities as per the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report. The city of joy has now become the capital of lung cancer due to the high pollution level. According to Dr Suman Mullick, an onco-surgeon, on an average 50 per cent cases he treats are non-smokers, emphasising the role of killer air pollution in Kolkata.

Alarming rise in lung ailments and cancer in Kolkata and the city still does little to curb air pollution.

Oncologist Dr Chandrakanth MV, said, “Out of two major types of lung cancers, the dominant one in Kolkata is squamous cell cancer, which is not only directly linked to air pollution but also more difficult to treat than any other.”

With the concern of rising air pollution in the city and its effects, Institution Of Public Health Engineers, India ( IPHE) organised a panel discussion on Thursday. Themed, ‘Extended Magnitude of Air Pollution in Kolkata and its threat to Human Health’ panelists included Dr Kalyan Rudra, chairman, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, Dr Sushmita Roychowdhury  from the National Allergy Asthma Bronchitis Institute, Dr Partha Sarathi Bhattacharya , Institute of Pulmocare, A Chattopadhyay (Scientist ‘E’), regional director, Central Pollution Board and Prof. KJ Nath, president, IPHE India and chairman, Arsenic Task Force, government of West Bengal

Prof Nath said, “Air Pollution is an urgent public health issue and there is no secret that Kolkata has been in the grip of severe air pollution contributing to the deteriorating health of residents in the city and outskirts. The air, we breathe, in the city is poisoned with anthropogenic and natural emissions which when enters bloodstream and the lungs can cause permanent damage to the lungs. This is very dangerous especially among the elderly and kids. There are many factors contributing to rising air pollution in Kolkata and vehicular emission is one of the main causes and to fix the pollution problem, the public transport system should be strengthened. It is most unfortunate that the tram services, a zero-polluting electric driven public transport vehicle has declined over the years and now it is only a skeleton of the past, withdrawn from most routes. Reintroducing and revamping of trams on a wider scale can serve as a solution for contemporary urban mobility needs. They not only contribute to mobility but most importantly it creates no pollution at the point of use.”

Key points highlighted during the discussion:

1.Demark areas of the city where automobile vehicles should be prohibited. Increase open space and green coverage in the city

2.Promote efficient and non-polluting public transport, safe and comfortable for users. Revive tram services, encourage electric transport vehicle for in-city connectivity and also between city and the suburban towns in the metro area.

3.Effective awareness campaign to inform people about the best means to curb the damage caused by polluted air to their lungs and it needs to be addressed on a war footing.

4.Encourage people not to use private cars and instead travel to the office by public transport. Walking/cycling for shorter distances, should also be promoted.

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