Kolkata has failed the Supreme Court. This is quite the most charitable construct that can be placed upon the city’s”couldn’t care less” response to the apex judiciary’s guidelines on the firing of crackers during Kali puja and Diwali, most particularly the timing ~ from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reports in the immediate aftermath of Diwali mirror the callous indifference of the West Bengal Pollution Board and the police despite the Commissioner’s pre-Diwali directive to the force to abide by the court order.
As the lumpens took over, the city witnessed the retreat of both entities, whose response was as breathless as the city’s. It is cause for alarm that the Air Quality Index shot up ninefold on the night of Kali puja and continued to soar to a hazardous degree till the inhospitable hour of 3 a.m. ~ which was five hours beyond the court’s deadline.
In the net, Kolkata was at its polluted worst, almost on the verge of being choked on the night of Diwali. It thus comes about that the Particulate Matter (PM 2.5 count) breached the prescribed 500-mark for as long has five hours. PM 2.5 refers to Particulate Matter of size 2.5 micrometres. This is regarded as the most hazardous for health; the tiny size can easily enter the lungs and the bloodstream.
Breached too was the decibel limit; this time around there was more smoke than noise, however. If one fallout is contextualised with the other, the city has managed to effect a mockery of the certitudes of environmental care. So dense was the smoke that even the unseasonal drizzle had little or no impact on the Air Quality Index, a matter of concern as much to environmentalists as doctors. Nor for that matter did the cloud cover during Diwali dissipate the particulate matter.
The level of air pollution defied the inbuilt protection that nature can afford. Contextualised with the Supreme Court order, if aimed principally at Delhi, then Kolkata’s 2018 Diwali was the most polluting in recent years. The city has played footsie with human health. The firing of less noisy crackers this year has made little or no difference in the overall construct. And the warning advanced by environmentalists calls for reflection, pre-eminently that of the PCB chairman.
Specifically that fireworks, that do not make much noise, can be more harmful as toxic chemicals and metals are used to produce a string of colourful lights ~ the bitter irony of a “bright, light city”. Faced with a grave environmental crisis, the PCB is trying to be wise after the event. The short point must be that it ought to have pulled its socks up before the event. The light has gone out of Kolkata’s soul; it is the soul of irresponsibility that appears to have taken over.