India is the second most populated country in the world, and by 2056, it will have a mass of 152 crores residing in it. The population of UP and Bihar combined will become the third-highest population in the world.
Along with being so populated, India is, or we can say was (all thanks to coronavirus) that it has become less polluted than it was last year. The levels of pollution had become so hazardous that people had to wear masks to protect themselves from fine particulate matter. The festival of Diwali perpetuated the condition and covered the entire country in a thick sheet of smog, especially the capital. The scenario became so dangerous that schools and workplaces had to be shut down and a red alert was also issued that instructed the people to leave their houses only at times of emergency.
The levels dropped after international health organisations started raising concern and industries and major polluting agents had to be shut down. However, only after continued lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the air became breathable here, and the signs became a good green from a raging red. Pictures of India’s air becoming free of all the pollutants also surfaced lately.
In order to keep a check and keep things under control, the concept of Smog towers was introduced in 2017 by a Dutch artist named ‘Daan Roosegaarde’ in Beijing. He prepared a prototype of equipment that could actually help regulate and control harmful substances that pollute the environment and make it difficult to breathe. These are basically large scale air purifiers that keep pollution at bay. It has multiple layers of filter that clean the air of pollutants as it passes through them. Two of them have been installed in China, one in Beijing, which is the tallest smog tower in the world and the other one has been installed in the northern city of Xi’an. The towers have been able to improve air quality to a great extent. Afterwards, it was able to compress the carbon waste generated in China, experts in India too suggested trying out the avenue of installing equipment that could help in any possible way.
So in November 2019, the Supreme Court of India directed the Central and Delhi government to prepare a plan to install smog towers across the capital to test the viability of the machine. Although an Indian company, Kurin Systems had developed a prototype in 2018 itself, Gautham Gambhir, Delhi MP from BJP did the honours of getting a prototype installed in Delhi. It is a combined pilot project between IIT- Delhi, IIT- Bombay and the University of Minnesota which helped to build design like that of the one installed in China’s Xi’an city.
So this was the first prototype installed in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar in January this year. The prototype is capable of treating 6,00,00 cubic metres of air per day and can collect more than 75 per cent of particulate matters ( PM 2.5 and 10 ). After the cleaning process, the purifier releases fresh and breathable air.
Another tower has been planned to be installed at Central Park of Connaught Place, Delhi. As the area observes the maximum footfall of people, especially during holidays, it will be an ideal place to install a tower. Also, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Lutyens and other essential areas fall under a few kilometres radius from the Park.
How effective are these smog towers?
These smog towers are a boon in times of pollution crisis. The ones installed in China have actually managed to the levels of PM 2.5 and 10 to reduce by 20% in the country. As the procedure suggests, the equipment is actually capable of filtering a lot of air and giving out fresh air, at least we can start pondering on the notion of it as there’s no viable option other than this right now.
Yes, strong governmental policies and stringent rules can make a big difference in bringing a positive change, and people can contribute too. Odd and even car policy by the Delhi government is effective, but it has to be followed correctly. Also, people have to take to cleaner ways of life in order to reduce not only air but pollution of all kinds.
The Supreme Court has issued guidelines to burn no crackers or only organic crackers to curb pollution. Also, it is pretty serious about policies that can curb pollution and smog towers is one of them. According to the highest command, if proper towers are installed across the country, it would be really effective.
How has the state of pollution in India been all this time? Did we ever breathe in quality air?
Only a while ago, 10 of the top 12 most polluted cities were Indian. Kanpur to Ghaziabad to Bangalore to Guwahati, all parts of the whole country have been making it to the top spots as far as pollution is concerned. From the Taj Mahal to a small household, all have experienced the hazards of air pollution. Crop residue burning, firecrackers, soot from fuels, partially burnt fuels, industrial waste, chemical waste, all have been equal contributors in making the air unbreathable.
Millions of children and adults get affected every year due to polluted air. Either they end up developing respiratory problems at a young age or even die due to it. In 2015, about 75% of deaths linked to air pollution in India, some 1.1 million died alone in rural areas itself.
The rural population depends on fuels like cow dung and biomass, which leave behind a lot of residue in the air, making the air hazy. About two-thirds of the country’s mass resides in rural areas which pushes a majority of the country’s population towards health hazards. Asthma and other breathing problems are common in rural mothers and children.
It also has to be a poor infrastructure. The incomplete and improper waste management and provision of good resources to people have worsened the situation. Forest fires and crop burning fulfil the void and make it worse to obtain quality air. The government has to come up with some other viable option for farmers to do something with their crops residue.
The government, along with the judiciary and the people can actually bring a lot of change to the country’s air quality and make it a cleaner and greener country.