- Newly installed smog tower at Connaught Place stands 24.2 meter tall
- Smog tower in Delhi has 40 fans that will suck the air, filter & release it
- Results of smog tower installed on a pilot basis will be studied for 2 year
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inaugurated a 24.2 meter tall smog tower in the national capital on Monday (August 23). Smog towers are structures designed as large-scale air purifiers to reduce air pollution. The smog tower installed in Delhi is based on American technology and has the capacity to purify 1,000 cubic metres of air per second within a radius of around 1 km, informed CM during the launch event. The smog tower has been installed at a cost of Rs. 20 crores, on a pilot basis following the Supreme Court’s order to do so to combat air pollution.
बधाई दिल्ली। प्रदूषण के ख़िलाफ़ युद्ध में दिल्ली में देश के पहले स्मॉग टावर की शुरुआत की। अमेरिकी तकनीक से बना ये स्मॉग टावर हवा में प्रदूषण की मात्रा को कम करेगा।
पायलट आधार पर शुरू हुए इस प्रोजेक्ट के नतीजे बेहतर रहे तो पूरी दिल्ली में ऐसे और स्मॉग टावर लगाए जाएंगे। pic.twitter.com/gqgh0MzyuJ
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) August 23, 2021
People from IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay will analyse the data and tell US how effective this smog tower is in cleaning the polluted air. It is expected that it will be assessed for two years but the initial trends will be available after a month. If this experiment turns out to be very effective, then many more such smog towers can be installed all over Delhi. It is built by Tata Projects, consultancy provided by NBCC and made under the supervision of IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay, said CM Kejriwal.
CM Kejriwal explained the working of the smog tower while addressing the media and said, “The top of the smog tower will suck in the air from the surrounding one kilometer radius, filter it and then release the purified air through the fans installed at the bottom.”
As per the official release, the tower is made of RCC and steel structure. It consists of 40 fans and has the airflow rate of 25 cubic meters per second.
Can Smog Towers Help Combat Air Pollution?
In Delhi, as per the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), 2018 under the Ministry of Earth Science, vehicles contribute to about 41 per cent of PM 2.5 emissions followed by industries that cause around 19 per cent of PM 2.5 emissions, further followed by power generation, residents and winds which contribute to 5 per cent, 3 per cent and 21 per cent respectively of the overall PM 2.5 emissions.
According to Delhi CM, air pollution in the national capital has declined in the past seven years. Talking about the same, CM Kejriwal said,
The level of particulate matter (PM) 10 (particles that are less than 10 microns in diameter) and PM 2.5 (particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter) have come down significantly since 2014. For instance, in 2014, PM 2.5 was close to 150 whereas now it has come down to near 100. Similarly, PM 10 was close to 300 and now it has come down to around 150. The people of Delhi have taken many steps together.
To tackle air pollution, in January last year, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and Delhi government for the pilot project of setting up a smog tower at Anand Vihar and Connaught Place in three months. As per the plan, another 25-metre-tall smog tower, built by the central government at Anand Vihar, is expected to become operational by August 31, reported news agency PTI. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee is the nodal agency for the smog tower at Connaught Place, while the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is the nodal agency for the one at Anand Vihar.
However, this is not the first time a smog tower has been installed in Delhi. On January 3, 2020, Traders’ Association Lajpat Nagar (TALN) and Gautam Gambhir Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Member of Parliament (MP) Gautam Gambhir had set up a 20-feet-tall smog tower in Lajpat Nagar Central market. But it stopped operating in between due to delayed installation of electricity meter owing to the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
We had installed a smog tower at Lajpat Nagar with the purpose of minimising odour and air pollution. As per our assessment, 66 lakh cubic meters of air has been processed at the rate of 25,000 cubic meters per hour. Particles as minuscule as 0.1 microns can be filtered in the vicinity of around 70-100 meters of radius from the point of installed tower, said an official from Gautam Gambhir Foundation.
Later, the NGO installed two more smog towers, one each at Anand Vihar and Gandhi Nagar.
But are smog towers really effective in reducing air pollution? Answering the same, Suresh Kotla, Director of Energy and Environment at Institute for Sustainable Communities, said,
There is enough evidence from China and other countries where smog towers have remained as one-time experiments raising serious doubts about the efficacy and practicality of smog towers. Air pollution is a dynamic problem with no boundaries, the assumption that such huge volumes of polluted air coming from different sources and geographies can be trapped and cleaned and will be effective enough, is clearly unscientific.
Echoing the same, Polash Mukerjee, Lead for Air Quality, Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) India Programme, called smog towers ‘extremely ineffective’. Talking about the impact of smog towers, Mr Mukerjee said,
They are not a solution at all. It’s like putting AC outdoors to solve global warming. Unless the source of the emission is targeted, any after-treatment is likely to have a very limited impact if at all. Their impact is extremely short-lived and local. Depending on the size of the fan and capacity, the impact could last for a few minutes or maybe hours. When Gautam Gambhir Foundation installed a smog tower, a study was conducted, and it was said that 40,000 such towers will be required to cover the entire Delhi.
Mr Mukerjee suggests understanding the sources of air pollution in Delhi and working on them instead of focusing on covering up the damage done. He said,
Remember, pollution in Delhi is not from the capital alone. Delhi is less than 3 per cent of the NCR area. As far as the Delhi government’s own policies are concerned, if these were replicated at the NCR level, it would have made a good impact. For example, in the 90s, industries in Delhi were categorised on the basis of pollution into white, green, orange and red. Industries falling in orange and red categories cannot operate within Delhi. These industries simply shifted few kilometers away from Delhi that is in Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Bhiwadi and other nearby areas. So, the impact wasn’t much but if these policies were to be implemented at the NCR level, it would have made a big impact. But this calls for political cooperation at a regional level.
Suresh R, Fellow and Area Convenor (Centre for Environment Studies), TERI resonated with Mr Mukerjee and stressed on controlling air pollution of total air shed. Mr Suresh also believes that the huge amount of money being invested in the installation of smog towers should be diverted towards other solutions like mechanical sweeping of road dust. He said,
We had done a source apportionment study and found that 50-60 per cent of pollution comes from outside Delhi. So, until and unless you control air pollution of total air shed, it won’t help. Also, India is lacking follow up of everything it is doing. You need to have good maintenance practice, and huge manpower and money for regular follow up. Also, solutions need to be implemented at nearby areas also. Like, mechanical sweeping in Delhi alone won’t help. In Delhi, vehicular pollution, road dust, and traffic congestion contribute to the pollution majorly. To tackle this, you have to have air shed approach.
Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) concurred and emphasised on the lack of available data and evidence on the efficacy of smog towers in cleaning up ambient air quality and sustaining gains. She said,
Outdoor air is hugely dynamic and its purification is not practical. There is also a huge energy penalty involved in running these towers. These towers can detract attention and divert valuable resources from the real solutions. Use the same resource to cut down direct emissions from the pollution sources for larger air quality and public health benefits.
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