In a flux over smog towers

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In a flux over smog towers

  • Experts argue that attempts to clean dynamic and voluminous air in outdoor situations are ineffective since air quality around smog towers shows no consistent improvement.
  • A handheld air quality monitoring device has revealed fluctuating levels of the chief pollutant, PM 2.5.
  • It is interesting that while the air closest to the tower should be cleanest, the device recorded the opposite in several instances, falling pollution levels as one moved away from the tower.

What is Smog?

  • Smog is a toxic combination of fog, dust, and air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and other pollutants that combine with sunlight to generate a thick coating of ground-level ozone.
  • When ozone is prevalent high in the atmosphere, it is beneficial; but, when it is present closer to the ground, it can have annoying health consequences.

What are the harmful effects of smog?

  • Smog causes a variety of health issues, including breathing difficulties, eye irritation, asthma, lowered immunity to lung infections, and colds that can be deadly in youngsters.
  • Plants are also hampered by the ozone in the pollution.
  • The haze limits vision and can cause severe harm to crops and forests.
  • Smog irritates our airways when breathed, increasing our risk of major heart and lung ailments.
  • Many cities monitor pollution levels because of these health dangers.

The scale of air pollution in India

  • According to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) assessmentfrom the University of Chicago: India is the world's most polluted country, with over 480 million people (about 40% of the population) residing in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north, where pollution levels often surpass those seen everywhere else on the planet by an order of magnitude.
  • According to the Clean Air Fund, the United Kingdom: India's air pollution costs the country up to Rs 7 lakh crore ($95 billion) every year.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) claims: India is home to six of the world's top ten most polluted cities, with Delhi topping the list.

What is a smog Tower?

  • Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers.
  • They are usually fitted with multiple layers of air filters, which clean the air of pollutants as it passes through them.
  • China has the world’s largest smog tower.

Working of Smog Towers

  • To remove PM2.5 particles, smog towers use either HEPA filtration or air ionization technologies.
  • That is, air passing through a smog tower passes through a filter before exiting, resulting in clean air.
  • It employs a 'downdraft air cleaning system,' in which dirty air is drawn in from a height of 24 meters and filtered air is discharged at the bottom of the tower, around 10 meters above the ground.
  • It differs from the Chinese method, which employs an 'updraft' mechanism in which air is pulled in from near the ground and driven upwards by heating and convection. At the top of the tower, filtered air is discharged.

Developed by

  • It was developed by Tata Projects Limited (TPL) with technical assistance from IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi, which will analyze the data.
  • The project management consultant is National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC) India Ltd.
  • The project was overseen by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

Need of Smog towers

  • According to a report by the CPCB, the concentration of PM10 in Delhi has increased from 258% to 335% Since 2009.
  • PM2.5, on the other hand, is the most common pollutant in Delhi and its environs. PM2.5 refers to fine particles that penetrate deep into the body and fuel inflammation in the lungs and respiratory tract, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems as well as a weakened immune system.
  • According to research by a Swiss organization (published in March 2021) that rated cities based on their air quality assessed in terms of ultrafine particulate matter levels, Delhi was the most polluted capital city in the world in 2020 for the third year in a row (PM 2.5).

Challenges with smog towers

  • It may give temporary respite from air pollution in a small region, but it is a pricey short-term remedy with little scientific evidence to support its long-term usefulness.
  • Up to 1 km from the tower, the tower might have an influence on air quality.
  • However, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi will examine the real impact in a two-year pilot project that will also identify how the tower performs under various weather conditions and how PM2.5 levels alter with airflow.

Steps Taken to Tackle the Problem of Air Pollution

  • Subsidy to farmers for purchasing the Turbo Happy Seeder (THS), tractor-mounted equipment that chops and uproots stubble to decrease stubble burning.
  • To minimize traffic pollution, BS-VI cars will be introduced, as well as a push for electric vehicles (EVs), Odd-Even as an emergency solution, and the development of the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways.
  • The Graded Response Action Plan is being implemented (GRAP). It's a series of restrictions that go into effect in stages when the air quality deteriorates, as it usually does in October and November.
  • Green Crackers are used.
  • Under the auspices of the CPCB, the National Air Quality Index (AQI) was developed for public use.

Way forward

  • Since there is no scientific proof that it is effective, governments should instead focus on the sources of air pollution and encourage renewable energy to reduce emissions.
  • If other cities decide to follow suit and build these pricey, inefficient towers, it will be a tragedy.
  • Policymakers should increase air pollution monitoring in locations where air quality monitoring is restricted or non-existent, as well as boost forecasting capability across cities.
  • Cities should collaborate with scientific institutes that are honest about their approach and conclusions to improve their air quality forecasting systems.
  • Emission inventories at the city level must be updated on a regular basis.
  • Urban slum residents who lack access to clean cooking energy and rely on biomass and other polluting fuels for their cooking requirements, resulting in increased household emissions, must make targeted efforts to improve air quality.