Some of the most important issues for Kolkata’s environment are not mentioned in the political discourse surrounding the elections to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
The green cover is rapidly decreasing, making Kolkata’s winters very cold or even severe.
No major political party participated in Sunday’s KMC polls and had a clear plan for how they would combat the city’s declining air quality or protect it from the onslaughts cyclones and flooding during the monsoon.
The Trinamul manifesto doesn’t mention any of these issues except that it would promote electric cars.
The BJP manifesto speaks about fighting air pollution by vacuuming roads, reducing industrial emission, and providing clean cooking fuel for households.
The Left Front manifesto discusses the introduction of CNG, a green fuel, and electric cars. It also mentions protecting the East Kolkata Wetlands against encroachment.
The Congress manifesto focuses on the frequent flooding of the city.
Environmental activists stated that protecting the wetlands, improving air quality and protecting the city from severe storms cannot be done at the periphery.
In 2020, cyclone Amphan ripped down nearly 5,000 electric poles in the city. Large parts of the city were darkened for days. Thousands upon thousands of trees were felled.
The need for a tree cover to protect public infrastructure and provide protection against strong winds was highlighted by environmentalists.
Environmentalists warn that the destruction of the East Kolkata Wetlands could spell disaster for the city. The natural slope towards Kolkata is to the east. The city could flood every now-and-then if the wetlands disappear. According to an environmentalist, it will be a disaster.
The wetlands act as a natural effluent treatment plant, saving the city millions of rupees.
Another concern in the city is its poor air quality. According to a study done by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, the majority of automobile pollution in Kolkata is caused by goods vehicles.
Even worse, poor implementation of rules at construction sites makes the city more dusty. Construction materials must be covered and sites should be drained of dust. A Calcuttan said that no one follows the rules and there is no one to verify.
Firhad Hakim was the chairperson of CMCs’ board of administrators. He claimed that an oversight led to the Trinamul manifesto not mentioning the issue of air quality.
However, I have stated personally in the campaigns that large trucks will not be allowed into the city. That is why we are building an enormous terminal in Howrah. We have also committed to convert all public buses into electrified vehicles within three years.
Adhir Chowdhury from the Congress stated that they were referring to the need for more display boards showing Calcutta’s air quality.
Kallol Majumdar (CPMs Calcutta) said that protecting the East Calcutta Wetlands would help protect the city against many hazards.
Samik Bhattacharya of the BJP said that the party was a pioneer in the field of renewable fuels.
But green activists weren’t satisfied with what was seen and heard. The parties have omitted key issues concerning the environment and green issues.
Sabuj Mancha is a platform of citizens concerned with the environment and released a charter of demands Tuesday.
The manifestos clearly show that no party is concerned about green issues that affect the city’s residents every single day. Naba Dutta (general secretary of Sabuj Mancha) said that we have created a 15-point list of demands for the next civic boards.
- Cleaning Calcutta’s air
- Recycle old smoke-belching cars
- Clean fuel for the city
- Protecting the East Calcutta Wetlands
- Restoring canal network
- Enforcement of noise rules