Greenpiece: Rethinking smog and smog towers in Delhi
A smog tower is an expensive device ( ₹20 crore) that sucks in air, then blows it out. In between, particulate matter is cleaned. When the air is let out, it mixes with outside air, turning polluted again.
It is reasonable to ask what those two smog towers in Delhi are doing. The honest answer is nothing, because they aren’t designed to.
A smog tower is an expensive device ( ₹20 crore) that sucks in air, then blows it out. In between, particulate matter is cleaned. When the air is let out, it mixes with outside air, turning polluted again. That’s inevitable—because expecting a smog tower to clean the air is like expecting an air conditioner outdoors to cool a park.
Installing the first device, for all its flaws, might be justified if it was well monitored for its efficacy and the data publicly available. This was not done. Instead, despite public opposition, a second one was installed. Now, several other cities are also following suit.
When technology is installed up in the public interest, a panel must be appointed to monitor it. Methodology and raw data should be freely available. In this case, the Supreme Court should have asked for a third-party assessment of the first plant. Only then should the next steps be taken — to scale up or invest in other ideas. In Delhi, the pedestrianisation of Ajmal Khan Road showed results more remarkable than smog towers. We should have invested in pedestrianisation near schools, for example. Paying for solutions impacting human health or livelihoods must not be in the hands of a few state actors. The panel of experts — and more — should weigh in, with transparent votes being cast. Complex? Yes. But nothing is too complex if it saves our lives.
(The writer is the Founder and Director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)