New Delhi's 'smog tower' uses 40 giant fans to purify the air in a 0.4 square mile radius.
Air quality is a major problem in New Delhi, and the city's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called it a "gas chamber" in 2019 due to the overwhelming pollution there.
Critics say the government should focus on reducing emissions instead of building smog towers.
The Indian capital of New Delhi opened a "smog tower" on Monday in a bid to purify air in the world's most polluted capital city, but experts aren't convinced that it's effective, reported local news outlets.
Using 40 giant fans and 5,000 filters, the 82-foot tower sucks in polluted air from the top, filters it, then pumps it out from the bottom, per local news NDTV. According to The Indian Express, the tower covers a radius of 0.4 square miles, and filters around 35,000 cubic feet of air a second.
"Today is a big day for Delhi in its fight for clean air against pollution," the city's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at the opening, per AFP. He also said that the smog tower is the first of its kind in New Delhi, a claim disputed by his political rivals, who tweeted that one of their members installed the city's first tower in 2020.
Kejriwal called New Delhi a "gas chamber" in 2019 due to the overwhelming pollution there, but air pollution continues to be a major problem across India. A 2020 Lancet study found that 1.67 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in 2019.
New Delhi has been the world's most polluted capital for the last three years, according to reports from IQAir, a Swiss group that monitors air quality levels. IQAir measures air quality based on PM2.5, fine airborne particles that cause inflammation in the lungs and respiratory tract and can lead to serious health problems.
New Delhi air regularly exceeds PM2.5 safe levels by up to 20 times, according to IQAir, and experts have said that the city will need at least 213 smog towers to resolve the pollution issue.
The single tower unveiled on Monday is a pilot program, and authorities will study it for two years to determine its effectiveness, reported NDTV.
But critics have maligned the smog towers as a costly distraction from what they say is the real solution - curbing emissions. "Let's just be clear that this is futile, an absolute waste," Karthik Ganesan, a research fellow from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, told AFP.
Tanushree Ganguly, a programme lead from the council, said there is no scientific evidence to show that the towers can effectively reduce pollution levels, per NDTV.
The tower's $2 million price tag was another concern for Dipankar Saha, a former additional director for India's Central Pollution Control Board, per The Indian Express.
"The tower is localized. How many such installations are required for Delhi at such a high investment cost?" he told The Express.
In 2018, China built a similar smog tower - a 328-foot air purifier - in the city of Xian. Authorities are still assessing its effectiveness, but said that preliminary results were promising.
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