Move aims to reduce air pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths each year, but experts are skeptical.

The Indian capital New Delhi opened the first “smoke tower” to reduce air pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths each year, but experts are skeptical.

The concentration of tiny deadly particles in the air in New Delhi often exceeds the safety limit by as much as 20 times, especially in winter, where 20 million people are shrouded in a layer of toxic gray smoke.

According to engineers, the 40 giant fans on the 25-meter (82-foot) tower will pump 1,000 cubic meters of air per second through the filter, halving the number of harmful particles within a square kilometer (0.4 square mile) radius .

“Today is an important day for Delhi to fight for clean air to fight pollution,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said after an inauguration near the busy shopping area of ​​Connaught Place on Monday.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (middle) unveiled the Smoke Tower in New Delhi [Money Sharma/AFP]

The installation “is being observed in an experimental way. We will analyze the data and if it works, more towers will be built in Delhi,” Kejriwal added.

‘Futility…absolute waste’

The tower cost US$2 million, and critics say that building a sufficient number of towers to substantially purify the air throughout the city will cost a lot of public funds, and this effort will better target the sources of smog.

These include automobile exhaust, heavy and small-scale industries, construction activities, the burning of waste and fuel, and the burning of crops in adjacent areas in winter.

“Let us be clear, this is futile and absolutely wasteful,” Karthik Ganesan from the Energy, Environment and Water Commission told AFP.

“Now that taxpayers’ money has been spent, let Delhi be a test case for all other Indian cities… to ensure that no other city is spending on ideas that we cannot afford,” he added.

Workers walk past the smoke tower built to purify the air in New Delhi [Money Sharma/AFP]

According to the World Health Organization, India has 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world.

A 2020 study by The Lancet found that 1.67 million people died of air pollution in the country in 2019, of which nearly 17,500 people died in Delhi.

In 2018, China built a larger 60-meter-high smoke tower in the heavily polluted city of Xi’an, but the test has not been extended to other cities so far.


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