With the Supreme Court of India directing the authorities to finish installing smog towers in Delhi within 10 months, questions have arisen over its functioning as well as effectiveness amidst severe pollution in the country’s capital.
Crux of the Matter
The Supreme Court recently announced a 10-month deadline for the installation of 2 smog towers in Delhi. In its statement, the SC declared that failing the deadline would be considered as “contempt” of Court. Costing around ₹18.52 crore, the aim of such large scale installation of smog towers is to curb pollution in Delhi, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Pollution has been a major problem for Delhi as well as the whole country. While Delhi was declared ‘the most polluted city in the world’ by the WHO in 2014, 21 out of 30 of the most polluted cities of the world are in India (2019).
What Are Smog Towers?
Smog towers are large scale air purifiers, with the towers containing multiple filter layers. The tower brings in air through the fans installed at its top, which is then purified by the removal of pollutant particles and is released back.
1 smog tower was inaugurated in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi in January 2020 by BJP MP Gautam Gambhir. With a height of 20 metres, the tower has a capacity of purifying 6 lakh cubic metres of air in a day. It has a reported capacity of trapping 75% particulate matters (PM) 2.5 and 10 and purifies air in a range of 500-750 metres. The tower has Carbon nanofibres as the main component of the filters.
The proposed 2 towers would be constructed by the National Buildings Construction Corporation and would be installed by Tata Consultancy. While IIT Bombay would manage the project, it has the University of Minnesota as its partner, which also facilitated the installation of the “largest air purifying tower” in Xi’an, China.
History Of Smog Towerss In India
- November 2019: The SC directed both the State and the Central Governments to develop a plan for installing smog towers in Delhi.
- 3 January, 2020: BJP MP Gautam Gambhir inaugurated a smog tower in the Lajpat Nagar of Delhi.
- 13 January, 2020: The SC ordered the installation of 2 smog towers in Delhi by April as part of a larger plan.
- 30 July, 2020: IIT Bombay withdrew from the project. However, the institute came back into the project after the SC labelled its withdrawal a “contempt”.
- 31 August, 2020: The SC criticized the State and the Central Governments for failing the April deadline. It granted them a 10 month period and claimed that a “contempt” case would be initiated if the deadline fails this time.
While several experts have lauded the smog towers, critics have labelled them “band-aid solutions”. They have also credited China’s success in curbing pollution to reduction in coal usage and motor vehicles, increase in usage of renewable energy, and strict measures against polluting factories, etc instead of the smog towers.
It is difficult to “clean air” like this (through smog towers) because the volume of air in the atmosphere is large. In a 1-km square area, there is a huge volume of air and the purifier will be working only on a minuscule part of it.Dr. S N Tripathi, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, IIT-Kanpur
Air Purifying Towers In China
China has two smog towers – in capital Beijing and in Xi’an. With a height of 100 metres, the Xi’an tower is the largest smog tower in the world. It has reportedly reduced pollution of PM 2.5 by 19% in an area of 6 square km around while producing 10 million cubic metres of purified air daily. The tower draws polluted air into the glasshouses of the tower and heats it by solar energy; this hot air passes through filters and is released back into the surroundings.
The Beijing tower was built by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, who also reportedly enabled the plant to compress the carbon waste accumulated in the purification process and produce gemstones from it.
- Studio Roosegaarde is a design studio by Daan Roosegaarde, which develops projects that merge technology and art in urban environments. The work from Studio Roosegaarde has been exhibited at the Rijksmuseum, Tate Modern, Tokyo National Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Design Museum in London.
- High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA), is a standard of air filter. Filters meeting the HEPA standard must satisfy certain levels of efficiency.
- IQAir is a Swiss air quality technology company, specializing in protection against airborne pollutants, developing air quality monitoring and air cleaning products. IQAir also operates AirVisual, a real-time air quality information platform.
- The Indian Express – Delhi gets its first smog tower: What is it and how does it work?
- The Print – Finish installing smog towers in Delhi in 10 months or face contempt, SC tells Centre
- CNN – 21 of the world’s 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India
- The Indian Express – The Supreme Court has brought ‘smog towers’ back in the news. What are they?
- The Quint – Delhi Smog Towers: Solution to Pollution Or Waste of Public Money?