Delhi gets its first smog tower to tackle air pollution

Need of the hour.
Need of the hour.
Image: REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
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India’s capital has launched a pilot project to tackle its smog problem.

New Delhi’s first-ever smog tower will begin operating today (Jan. 3), the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.  The massive 20-feet-tall air-purifier has been installed at South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market, which sees an average footfall of 15,000 people every day, the report said.

The aim is to create a “clean air zone” around the area with an estimated 80% reduction in particulate matter, as per the experts who are involved in the project.

Delhi has in recent years been battling alarmingly toxic air quality every winter. On Friday, the overall air quality index (AQI) was at 419. The concentration of pollutant particle PM10 was recorded at 399 (µgm-3) and that of PM2.5 at 269, putting Delhi’s overall AQI in the “severe” category, according to the ministry of earth sciences’ air quality monitor system of air quality and weather forecasting and research (SAFAR).

Why does Delhi need smog towers?

In November 2019, the supreme court directed the Modi government and the Arvind Kejriwal led-Delhi government to draw up a comprehensive plan in 10 days to install “smog towers” across the capital to deal with air pollution.

The inspiration came from China, which has already experimented with this technology.

Smog towers are the devices that can work as large-scale air purifiers, fitted with multiple layers of air filters. China, also battling air pollution over the past few years, has two smog towers now. One in capital Beijing and the other, dubbed the world’s largest, in Xi’an city.

The Delhi experiment is being headed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay in collaboration with IIT Delhi. The central pollution control board and the University of Minnesota are involved in the process. The University of Minnesota had earlier helped in the Xi’an project, too.

The estimated cost of the Delhi tower is around Rs7 lakh ($9,778.13 ), according to media reports. Experts, however, are sceptical of its success.

“In a city like Delhi, where pollution levels are high, weather is dynamic and sources of pollution multiple, investing in such devices is not feasible. Nowhere in the world have we seen any data published to establish that this technology improves air quality,” Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) at Centre for Science and Environment, told Hindustan Times. “The same money must be spent on reducing emissions. We need real action to cut down on real emissions.”