Mixed reaction to Delhi’s First Smog Tower

Lajpat Nagar, a popular city market in New Delhi got the city's first Smog Tower, courtesy the local area MP, Gautam Gambhir, in association with the trader's foundation.

After much talk about action against air pollution, Delhi finally has a smog tower of its own. The tower, installed at the popular lajpat Nagar market in the city, a market that is extremely popular with ladies especially, was installed courtesy the local area MP and former cricketer, Gautam Gambhir.

His foundation did it in association with the local traders association, which will also pick up the monthly tab for running tower, at Rs 30,000 per month. A significant part of the cost is the energy cost of running the system.

The tower is in response to the continued efforts , or lack of efforts one could say, to find more long term solutions to the city;s air pollution issues. Starting particularly from October, the city’s pollution levels have been a cause for widespread dismay, along with most of the Northern Indian plains, consistently staying in the ‘severe’ to ‘hazardous’ zones. Extra ordinary measures like closure of schools and colleges, besides banning vehicles under the odd even scheme have been taken, to little or no avail.

Just today morning, according to the Air Quality Index data, the figures came in at  302 for PM2.5 (‘very poor’ category ) and PM 10 was at 283 in ‘poor category’ in Lodhi Road area.

The pollution has also created rifts between political parties, with some blaming the ban on firecrackers to a selective bias against Diwali, the key Hindu festival which falls in October -November every year.

While Startups like Kurin systems have made claims to be able to built 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide smog towers to tackle pollution in a 3 km zone, this particular tower is 20 feet tall, and about 5 feet wide at the base. It claims to clean air in a 750 metre radius, which sounds ambitious, frankly. Interestingly, very little data is available globally in terms of the impact of smog towers, including from China, where they were tried in the past couple of years.

The race to inaugurate a functioning tower like this one might also have had something to do with the coming elections, to put the ruling Aam Aadmi Party government on the backfoot, since they had made announcements about installing towers, plans that are presumably still going through the usual motions of government processes. That could also explain the studied silence on the Delhi government handles to the new development in the city.

Interestingly, environmentalists and local activists don;t sound too impressed too.

Besides the obvious complaint of not treating the causes, activists also point out that the Rs 7 lacs price tag and space requirements, besides maintainance issues, make this a non starter as a solution to the city’s smog and pollution issues.  For now, we believe it is safe to bet that the tower will not be repeated in many places, till some concrete data comes in.

Either way, it should be interesting to look at the data in terms of nearby pollution, or even the pollution that is trapped by the towers inlet and systems, before it blows out clean air outside.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh is the founder at IamRenew

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