As the national capital grapples with hazardous levels of air pollution, Delhi’s much-celebrated Rs 23 crore smog tower, inaugurated with great fanfare by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2021, remains firmly locked and inoperable.
Despite the dire air quality conditions, the 24-meter-tall smog tower located in Connaught Place stands idle, casting doubt on its effectiveness. Once boasting a team of 10 individuals, including engineers, operators, and assistants, the operational staff was disbanded seven months ago.
Designed with the capability to purify 1,000 cubic meters of air within a one-kilometer radius per second, the tower is equipped with an array of 40 fans and 5,000 air filters, all aimed at cleansing polluted air and releasing purified air.
The installation of the Connaught Place smog tower was initially experimental. In a similar vein, another smog tower was introduced in Anand Vihar, a notable pollution hotspot within Delhi.
A comprehensive project conducted over two years by IIT-Bombay, under the aegis of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), yielded underwhelming results. It revealed that the smog tower only managed to reduce Particulate Matter (PM) levels by a mere 12 to 13 percent at a distance of 100 meters from the tower.
Furthermore, the study indicated that the smog tower’s efficacy in reducing concentrations of PM 2.5 and PM 10 remained notably limited, even at distances of 300 meters and 500 meters.
The DPCC’s findings conveyed that the smog tower exerted minimal influence on the macro air quality. Despite being expected to perform better during periods of heightened pollution, the data suggested that particulate pollution levels remained persistently high, with negligible discernible impact.
The construction of the smog tower was carried out under the supervision of IIT-Bombay, with funding from the DPCC. Notably, Tata Projects Limited and the National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) were pivotal contributors to this venture.
Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) soared from 351 at 10 AM on Thursday to 471 at 9 AM on Friday, categorizing it as ‘severe.’ This spike led to various restrictions, including the temporary closure of government and private primary schools for two days.
The deteriorating air quality is primarily attributed to unfavorable meteorological conditions and a surge in crop stubble burning incidents in neighboring states.
An AQI between zero and 50 is deemed ‘good,’ while ratings from 51 to 100 are ‘satisfactory.’ A range of 101 to 200 is considered ‘moderate,’ 201 to 300 is ‘poor,’ and 301 to 400 is ‘very poor.’ An AQI exceeding 401 falls under the ‘severe’ category.