Do smog towers really help curbing pollution?

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai recently had said that the smog tower installed by his government in Connaught Place, in the heart of the capital, has a “noticeable impact” on reducing air pollution within a 300-meter radius.

The claim was made on basis of the data collected over a year by teams from the Indian Institutes of Technology (Bombay and Delhi) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. According to the report, the smog tower was found to have reduced air pollution within a 50-metre radius by 70-80 per cent and within a 300-metre radius by 15-20 per cent.

However, environmental experts have different opinions on the effectiveness of the smog tower and dismiss the report citing the faults in the methodology.

“There is no scientific research and basis behind the functioning of the smog tower. Whatever studies have been done so far on the effectiveness claim of smog tower has proved that it is not helping in curbing the air pollution,” Chandra Bhushan, CEO of Iforest, told IANS.

More than a technology to pacify the pollution, he said further, the tower has become an object for the government to show off that they are working to fight pollution.

“Such technology is not feasible in Delhi on two grounds – first no scientific evidence and the second is high cost. If Delhi government really wants to fight the pollution, they should provide subsidised LPG to those living on the outskirts of the city using wood and coal for cooking and the government must invest in public transport so that pollution in the city could be lowered down,” said Chandra Bhushan.

On government report on towers effectiveness, he said this is nothing but a mathematical calculation. “Suppose smog tower reduces air pollution within a 50-metre radius by 70-80 per cent and within a 300-metre radius by 15-20 per cent, how it is going to help whole cities whose area is around 1,500 sq kms,” he said.

Environmental expert Vikrant Tongad said: “Delhi government is using two measures to control the pollution – one is smog tower, which was installed last year and the smog guns which is being currently used. Some smog guns have been deployed at construction sites and some are running in the city. However, the smog guns can be beneficial to some extent in controlling the dust at the construction site, but this is not being used in a proper way.”

He said that those which have been deployed at construction sites have turned out a show piece, but can have some impact on controlling the dust if it is run in a proper way.

On smog towers, he said that this is nothing but an eyewash as this technology has failed in China and another countries. There is no scientific evidence behind this technology and not even the report of its effectiveness have been put in the public domain. On basis of smog tower, we can’t assure of giving clean air to the public, he said.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior scientist at government office said that smog towers can contol pollutants in a limited area, but “how it is going to help in curbing pollution as the whole city cannot come to breathe in that confined limited area”.

The Environment Minister also claimed that the pollution levels in the national capital was lowest post Diwali this year across the last five years.

However, talking to IANS, Prof. Gufran Beig, Founder Project Director, SAFAR, said that two reasons can be attributed for less pollution post Diwali this year. “The first is that the wind suddenly changed the direction and became westerly. It was supposed to come from the direction of stubble burning, but it changed the direction to the westerly.”

Secondly, the wind speed on the midnight of Diwali accelerated to around 10 to 12 km per hr from 3 to 5 km per hr, resulting into the dissemination of pollutants and the city woke to a less polluted morning next day.

20221027-194202

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