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India’s First Smog Tower in Delhi

What’s common between Beijing and Delhi? 

  • Both are capital cities of the 2 most populous countries in the world
  • Both are among the leading business and commercial centers of the world
  • Both are also the leading cities in terms of pollution, toxic air and number of people suffering from air pollution

Also, now both have the distinction of having Smog Towers.

So first thing first, what is Smog Tower? As per Wikipedia, these “are structures designed as large-scale air purifiers to reduce air pollution particles.”

Delhi Smog Tower

Last week, Delhi installed its first smog tower, at one of the city’s leading market center, Lajpat Nagar. The cost of smog tower is Rs 7 lakh (~$10k) and the annual running cost of the device will be around Rs 30,000(~$400). Thanks to the money funded by local traders, shopkeepers and East Delhi member of parliament (MP) – Gautam Gambhir, Delhi now has its first smog tower. The 20-meter (65 feet) high tower is capable to clean the air in 300 meters radius.

It will trap particulate matter of all sizes suspended in the air. Large-scale air filters shall draw in the air through fans installed at the top before passing it through the filters and releasing it near the ground. PTI has reported that the smog tower is capable of treating 250,000 to 600,000 cubic meters of air per day and can collect more than 75 percent of particulate matters (PM).

The pilot project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and India’s leading educational institutes – IIT Bombay & IIT-Delhi. The University of Minnesota was also involved in the design of a similar tower in China’s Xi’an city.

This is coming at the back of the Supreme Court directive, where the Centre and the Delhi government were asked to prepare a plan to install ‘smog towers’ across the capital to deal with air pollution.

The Delhi state government is also planning to install a smog tower at one of the capital city’s largest commercial and business centers – Connaught Place.

Global examples 

Coming back to China, the country which is dealing with pollution from a long time – has two smog towers — one in Beijing and the other one in the northern city of Xi’an.

Xian Tower (Source: Getty Images)

Xi’an tower built-in 2016, is 100-meter (328 feet) high and is considered as the world’s largest smog tower. Xi’an is known for the worst air pollution in China due to its coal-burning heating systems.

Concept Illustration (Source: Antarctica Journal)
AP Photo – Andy Wong

Beijing tower is much smaller in size with a height of 7 meters. The interesting bit with Beijing tower is that it has been able to compress the carbon waste generated during purification to produce gemstones (dark gems) which are used for rings and cufflinks. The money raised by selling this jewelry will go towards supporting the development and building more such towers.

The Beijing tower is designed by Daan Roosegaarde, who also designed the smog tower in Rotterdam, Netherland major port city in 2015. Rotterdam tower is also 7 meters, and capable of removing ultra-fine smog particles and pumping out clean air.

Way Forward

Whether the smog tower will really work, will it really clean air, will this absorb pollutants is still debatable. On one side, there are opinions that these structures are not really working, while on another side, there are reports from researchers at the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences that they have seen improvements in the air quality over an area of more than three square miles of Xian tower.

Even if it creates a minor impact, the Delhi initiative can be considered appreciable, especially as it comes from the involvement of the local population.

Can this be considered as a long term and permanent solution? Maybe not. We need to focus more on the root cause; we need to drastically work towards reducing the sources of pollution rather than after the damage is already done.


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