Set up air purifier towers, CM tells Chahal
The country’s first smog tower was inaugurated in Connaught Place, New Delhi, in August 2021, followed by a second one in Anand Vihar, in September of the same year. At the time the devices were touted as a solution for the Capital’s mounting problem of air pollution
MUMBAI: Guess what is on chief minister Eknath Shinde’s mind, as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) gets ready to present the civic budget on Saturday – to ensure clean air in Mumbai. The CM’s ask comes on the back of concerns raised by citizens about the city’s poor air quality index (AQI).
Borrowing from a much-critiqued Delhi experiment, Shinde has asked BMC’s commissioner I S Chahal to make provisions for air purifier towers in public places. Interestingly, last month reacting to Mumbai’s alarming poor air quality, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had decided to shoot the messenger rather than look for a solution, as reported by HT. The body decided to relocate nine stations run by the System of Air Quality Research and Forecasting (SAFAR), which give the AQI readings from their current spots, as the board believed they did not accurately reflect the city’s ambient air quality – a matter contested by senior officials in the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IIT-M).
The country’s first smog tower was inaugurated in Connaught Place, New Delhi, in August 2021, followed by a second one in Anand Vihar, in September of the same year. At the time the devices were touted as a solution for the Capital’s mounting problem of air pollution. Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai even said that the devices, priced at ₹20 crore each, can “filter out 80 per cent of particulate matter”, much to the amusement of scientists.
The devices stand at an imposing height of 20 metres, and are fitted with 5,000 high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which clean 1,000 cubic metres of air per second, using 40 large fans to help pass air through the device. Recent reports however have suggested that they have been inefficient at reducing ambient air pollution, just as experts had red-flagged multiple times prior to their inauguration.
Alastair Lewis, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of York, and Science Director at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, has argued that they simply cannot process large volumes of air, in enough time, to make any dent to the problem. Sunil Dahiya, an analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said, “These devices have not, and cannot work. Besides, as they are being powered by coal-fired electricity, they are in fact adding to pollution in some other part of the country.”
When asked to respond to the CM’s suggestion, Chahal said, “We are working on this for the budget.” Additional municipal commissioner (Projects) P Velarasu will present the budget to Chahal on Saturday.
Additionally, Shinde has told the civic body to “take care of the health of Mumbaikars”, stating that nearly 27 per cent of the citizens suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. He has asked for door-to-door surveys to create a database, as was done during the pandemic.
Calling the civic body’s attention to the rush at the out patient department (OPD) of civic hospitals, he said BMC must seek help from external agencies and increase the windows. He has also asked the BMC to enhance the number of MRI, CT scan and other investigation machines as well as dialysis in BMC. He also expressed concern over urban afforestation.
Political observers have said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS) combine is trying its best to wrest control of BMC, which was under the Shiv Sena for 25 years.