In China, questions raised over efficacy of smog towers

Updated on Nov 14, 2019 07:30 PM IST
Within months, China’s state-controlled media had trashed the tower, calling it an “eyewash” and ineffective in a megacity with more than 20 million people like Beijing.
Two years later, in 2018, the evidence of its effectiveness was questioned by a research institute.(Reuters Photo)
Two years later, in 2018, the evidence of its effectiveness was questioned by a research institute.(Reuters Photo)
Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis

Beijing: China’s experiment with installing giant outdoor “smog-free towers” in its polluted cities haven’t had the desired results despite generating interest when first talked about in 2016.

Instead, emission control remains the only effective way to control pollution, experts told HT.

A seven metre high anti-smog tower, designed by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde, was the first to be put up in an art district in Beijing in 2016.

It was the last.

Within months, China’s state-controlled media had trashed the tower, calling it an “eyewash” and ineffective in a megacity with more than 20 million people like Beijing.

A larger, skyscraper-sized smog-tower was also built in Xi’an, the capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi province, another heavily polluted city, the same year.

Two years later, in 2018, the evidence of its effectiveness was questioned by a research institute.

“A skyscraper-sized air purifier curbed pollution by about 15% in a 10-square kilometer area over two years in one of China’s most polluted cities,” the state-controlled tabloid, Global Times said in a report.

“It would take about 1,000 to do the same for the entire city of Xi’an,” the tabloid quoted Cao Junji, from the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying.

The 60-meter-high air purifier cost 12 million yuan ($1.91 million) when it was installed in 2016.

About 1,000 such structures could handle 10,000 square kilometers, Cao said.

“It is costly and works for a limited area like 100 metres, and the pollutants can be easily transported to clean air (area) again. It is not practical to use these (smog-towers) to control air pollution,” Hongliang Zhang from the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering from Shanghai’s Fudan University told HT.

“People build it for reasons but no one academia thinks it is effective,” Hongliang added.

“The haze towers in Chinese cities have not been used much; their effectiveness is limited to 100 metres (in the immediate surrounding areas). It has a limited effect on the environment,” a Liping Zhang, a consultant on pollution based in eastern China’s Hangzhou said.

“The economic feasibility of such towers is relatively poor for improving the environment on a large scale. They could have an impact on the environment at a very local level,” Liping added.

“Emission is the only way to control pollution,” Hongliang, the first expert, said.

In March, Beijing announced that it will allocate 25 billion yuan or $3.73 billion to prevent and control air pollution, an increase by 25% year on year.

As for the towers, they could probably work as anti-pollution symbols but the cost involved in building such structures in the first place puts a question mark on the projects.

The one already put up in Beijing, for example, has since been renamed as “smog reminder” instead of the more ambitious “smog tower”, state media reported, adding that the structure was retained for educational purposes.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The Security Council's consultations will take place on Monday afternoon in New York.

    UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Monday over Gaza fighting

    The UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the situation in Gaza, where a truce is holding between Islamic Jihad militants and Israel after three days of deadly conflict. China, which holds the presidency of the Security Council in August, announced the emergency meeting on Saturday, with Ambassador Zhang Jun expressing his concern over Gaza's worst fighting since an 11-day war last year.

  • File photo of cracked and dry earth on the banks of Le Broc lake, as a historical drought hits France, August 5, 2022.

    France in midst of 4th heat wave amid historic drought

    France was in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year Monday as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record. Read US Senate poised to pass Biden's cornerstone climate and health bill The high temperatures aren't helping firefighters battling a wildfire in the Chartreuse Mountains, near the Alps in eastern France, where authorities have evacuated around 140 people.

  • Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak before taking part in the BBC Conservative Party leadership debate in Stoke-on-Trent, England, Monday July 25, 2022.

    Rishi Sunak v Liz Truss: UK PM race finalists clash over this policy

    The race to elect a new Conservative Party leader, who will take charge as British Prime Minister early next month, heated up on Monday as the two finalists – Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – clashed over their proposals to tackle the soaring cost-of-living crisis across the country. While Truss has pledged immediate tax cuts if elected, Sunak has promised more targeted support for the most vulnerable households and tax cuts further down the line.

  • China’s Yuan Wang 5 is seen docked on October 2, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. The ship is described as a naval vessel used for tracking and supporting satellites. (Getty Images)

    ‘Senseless’: Beijing unhappy as India opposes docking of Chinese ship at Sri Lankan port

    China on Monday described as “senseless” India's opposition to the docking of a Chinese ship at a Sri Lankan port, saying “relevant” countries should stop disturbing normal exchanges between Beijing and Colombo. China's Yuan Wang 5, a space and satellite tracking vessel, was allowed by Colombo last month to dock at the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota between August 11 and 17, raising security concerns in New Delhi.

  • (Representational Image) 

    Balochistan Assembly holds anti-child marriage bill pending from last 8 years

    The draft for an anti-child marriage bill has been pending before the Balochistan Assembly for the last eight years, a legislator briefed the consultation meeting on the issue of child marriage. A politician from the National Party, Shama Ishaq, said that the delay was due to hurdles created by certain quarters. The session was presided over by Balochistan's Parliamentary Secretary on Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Science and Technology, Rubaba Khan Buledi.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, August 08, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now