Cleaning the air
The Delhi government's ambition to build a smog tower is not irrelevant. It is sourced from the dire consequences that the national capital has faced in recent years, more so in winters of those recent years. It is well understood that Delhi air is susceptible to a sharp spike in AQI in the wake of polluting episodes. Repeated instances of vehicular emissions, construction activity, industrial smoke, etc., have made Delhi a gas chamber. Climatic conditions and geographical position do not bring any respite as a blanket of smog shroud Delhi in winter. Delhi's GRAP and a slew of other measures to curb air pollution such as the novel Odd-Even rule are in place yet the air quality is dismally low. As a remedy, the Delhi government's letter to IIT Bombay seeking assistance in building smog tower in Connaught Place is one small step to cure the air of a vast city. The Supreme Court's approval of the proposed 20-metre smog tower and consequent time period of three months for its installation is a prudent measure in wake of Delhi's deteriorating air. The court further directed the CPCB to erect another such smog tower at Anand Vihar, which is a severely congested place with high AQI readings during poor air quality days. Now the question that remains is whether the introduction of two such towers in Delhi be of any help? The proposal submitted to the Supreme Court in December by a High-Level Committee comprising experts and government officials had asserted that a reduction of 65 per cent in pollution can be achieved on an average up to 700 metres from the tower. The committee had also noted that smog towers may not be a viable solution to Delhi's air menace given the current knowledge and experience. However, due to its proven localised effect, the Rs 12-15 crore priced tower could still be installed as a collective of all such measures is what will bring down the pollution level. In fact, an experimental tower over 100 meters (328 feet) high in China — labelled as the world's biggest air purifier by its operators — has brought a noticeable improvement in air quality as per scientists leading the project. It is only fitting for Delhi to try the same with smaller towers but more in number. Given the Capital's extraordinarily poor air, a remedy to the same extent is required to strike a balance.
(image from indiatoday.in)