Pollution levels across India are some of the highest anywhere in the world. And on top of this pile of polluted places sits Kolkata. A once beautiful city has been reduced to a huge garbage yard with tons of plastic waste strewn on every square inch of the city. Along with the number of aging buses and trucks spewing smoke – the various coal fires and dusty construction sites, have made the landscape a wasteland. But what has conspired to create this situation? Why has the West Bengal government turned a blind eye to the transport contractors?
Politics has always been a prominent part of the Kolkata culture. However the excessive politicizing of every issue has made it extremely difficult for legislation to be formed. The government in its quandary chooses to sleep over the various bills in the interest of protecting the environment – rather than irk the contractors who pay for the party funds. This has led to an unhealthy environment of government apathy and general callousness, especially in taking care of the living conditions. In its mandate to “provide rights to the poor” they have totally neglected the harm being caused to the environment by the millions of poor in the city.
The classic case of rampant pollution in the city of Kolkata are the buses and trucks plying the roads. In a recent move, a number of NGOs had petitioned that the pollution norms be strictly applied to the errant bus contractors. However the ministry decided to make the announcement with a rider that “people with genuine reasons can get a reprieve from the pollution control measures”!! This kind of obvious molly coddling of the transport contractors have further emboldened them, making it impossible for the police on the ground to fine the law breakers.
Plastic bags is another area where the West Bengal government has failed to check pollution. Elsewhere in all other major cities of India, plastic bags are banned as they cause widespread pollution which is difficult to remove. But not in Kolkata – where the “poor” have to carry their daily bread in plastic bags! The result is that the drainage system is choked in the city and the roads look like an unending garbage yard. Filth and disease accumulate in this waste causing diseases and generally making the whole city an unhealthy place to live in.
The present CPIM government is on its way out. They lost in all the by-polls. Here is hoping that the new government when it arrives, will be able to get rid pf the lethargy and inaction. If the laws are not implemented soon this city is going to become uninhabitable in the next few years! It is time the West Bengal government understood that “giving rights to the poor” does not mean that the environment can be abused!