By Avinash Prabhakar
The Delhi government seemed to be in a hurry to inaugurate the Smog Tower project even while the work is not even 50 per cent completed yet. The tower’s major mainstay — the air filters — to make air pure for inhaling are still missing, with not even one of the total of 5,000 required being installed it.
The primary work of electricity supply to the tower is still in the progress. Only after this is completed, will the installation of air filters commence. Meanwhile each side of the tower was supposed to have 10 fans, or 40 in total, but many of these were still to be installed at the time of inauguration.
Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death across the globe, and has been established as a potential reason for cardiac arrest. Underlining the relationship between the concentration of everyday pollutants and the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, the findings of a recently-conducted study suggest that air quality should be incorporated into predictive models to assist health systems in planning service requirements.
The Smart Air has analysed 2021 air pollution data for 540 major cities from 182 countries to find out the “25 Most Polluted Cities in the World”. The capital city Delhi ranks third in the list, while Ghaziabad in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh ranks second after Lahore. Delhi finds mention two times in the list – once at third position and New Delhi at the fifth position.
The capital’s rising air pollution index has been a matter of concern. In an attempt to control the air pollution and purify air, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently inaugurated the first Smog Tower in Connaught Place.
A worker, who only identified himself as Mishra, at the Smog Tower site, said that major works are pending this time. He said that the work has been slow down as the major portion of the workforce has been shifted to another site in Anand Vihar. He said that September 20 is the deadline for the project.
A resident of neigbouring Baba Kharak Singh Marg, who did not want to be identified, said: “Though we are happy with the smog tower in our vicinity, but we are more susceptible about other issues like its exhaust, sound and other aspects.”
However, the project has been marred by controversy for being called “the first smog tower across the nation”. The Delhi BJP accused CM Kejriwal of misleading people, claiming Delhi’s first smog tower was installed by its MP Gautam Gambhir in 2020.
At the same time, many environmentalists and health professionals say this kind of project cannot provide a permanent solution to air pollution which has many dimensions and might prove costly for Delhi.
Dr Abhishek Shankar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi said: “Governments should try to tackle root causes of air pollution with community-based efforts. This might be a time-taking process but our short-term interventions should have long-term sustainability. Smog towers are marketed as a visible solution to air pollution, but are too costly and there is no scientific evidence to support the claim of filtering outdoor air effectively.”
Sunil Dahiya, Analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said: “Once the pollutant is mixed with air, there is no mechanism to extract it. No study suggests that such tower can work efficiently to purify the air.”
Terming it a total wastage of public money, he said: “Government should take action against the root cause of air pollution, instead of installing such structure on public money. Government should immediately stop considering other such projects in the capital.”
Shambhavi Shukla, Deputy Programme Manager, Clean Air Programme at the CSE, said: “Research is going on, but there is no any established evidence that could suggest that such smog tower clean the ambient air in open space. Such system can work in our house in closed-door but open space it will not work.”
The Delhi government has said that it will monitor the data for the next two years. If the experiment is successful, authorities will work to get more such towers installed in the capital. The tower is supposed to purify the air in a radius of 1 to 1.5 kms.
(Avinash Prabhakar can be reached at [email protected] )