Delhi gets first smog tower to combat air pollution

The Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the Delhi government in November 2019 to come up with a road map on installing smog towers in the NCR to combat air pollution.
The 20-feet-tall tower is fitted with exhaust fans to suck in polluted air and can remove up to 80% of the particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM10) -- the primary pollutant in Delhi’s air.(HT PHOTO)
The 20-feet-tall tower is fitted with exhaust fans to suck in polluted air and can remove up to 80% of the particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM10) -- the primary pollutant in Delhi’s air.(HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jan 03, 2020 12:11 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Delhi’s first smog tower will start working at Lajpat Nagar central market from Friday. The 20-feet-tall tower is fitted with exhaust fans to suck in polluted air and can remove up to 80% of the particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM10) -- the primary pollutant in Delhi’s air.

Following high pollution levels in the national capital, the Supreme Court had in November 2019 asked the Centre and the Delhi government to come up with a road map on installing smog towers in the national capital region (NCR) to combat air pollution.

The smog towers were to be installed on the lines of China, which has experimented with this technology.

A separate pilot project has been proposed to consider the efficacy of smog towers and this is being undertaken by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-Bombay) in collaboration with IIT-Delhi and the University of Minnesota.

The US-based institution has helped build a smog tower in Xian, northern China.

According to the Lajpat Nagar trader association members, the tower has been installed in an open area above a covered drain in the market by the traders body with the help of east Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir.

The traders body said the equipment cost of the smog tower came to about 7 lakh, which is being borne by the Gautam Gambhir Foundation, an NGO being run by the parliamentarian. The market association will bear the running cost of the device.

“The running cost of the facility will be around 30,000 which will be borne by the traders’ association of Lajpat Nagar. This tower will purify the air within a circumference area of up to 750 metres. Such initiatives are important to combat air pollution in Delhi, which has also become a pollution capital,” Ashwani Marwah, general secretary Traders Association Lajpat Nagar said.

Marwah said the tower has been erected on a four feet high platform on a covered drain near Veer Savarkar Marg in Lajpat Nagar central market. He added that in future more initiatives would be launched to control air pollution in the area.

An official of the company, which has supplied the equipment, said that the “smog tower” is fitted with exhaust fans to suck in polluted air with the help of a big inlet point. “A machine fitted inside the tower then removes nearly 80% of the particulate matter i.e. PM 2.5 and PM 10, helping to bring down pollution levels and spews fresh air out through four outlet units. The purifier may treat 250,000 to 600,000 cubic metres of air per day,” the official, who wished not to be named, said.

The official said that the smog tower will run on electricity.

Gambhir’s office said the giant air purifier is a prototype and more such equipment would be installed across East Delhi Parliamentary constituency, if the model turns out to be a success.

In February 2018, the Delhi government had installed an anti-pollution tower at ITO in central Delhi on pilot basis. The experiment did not yield good results.

Experts have been questioning the feasibility of smog towers, saying there are no studies to assess the impact of this technology on the ambient air quality.

D Saha, former head of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) air laboratory, said, smog towers are not suitable to Delhi’s meteorological conditions.

He said unlike other cities in the world, Delhi does not have smog but it has fog and high amount of dust in the air.

“There is a constant intrusion of dust in Delhi because of various geographical and local factors. How much can a filter suck? Rather than heavy investment technologies like these, citizens must adopt initiatives, which are more constructive and sustainable such as car-pooling, limiting use of private vehicles, greening and controlling ground level dust, among others, which can go a long way in improving the air quality,” Saha said.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) at Centre for Science and Environment,“We don’t have any data to establish that these towers clean up outdoor ambient air quality. In a city like Delhi, in an open environment, where pollution levels are high, weather is dynamic and multiple sources of pollution, 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. The same money must be spent in reducing emissions. We need real action to cut down on real emissions.”

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