Delhi government's plan to install carbon cutters gathers dust; project was aimed at curbing air pollution

A pilot project initiated by the Delhi government to control air pollution has failed to make any headway three months after its inception. The reason for this appears to be the state government's apathy towards controlling the problem.

This comes at a time when the capital city is facing an unprecedented challenge in the form of poor air quality. Recently, a mobile app that collects data on air quality in various cities across the world showed that breathing in Delhi is as bad as smoking 7.7 cigarettes a day.

On 16 February, the Delhi government, as part of the pilot project mentioned earlier, allowed a company named Pi Greentech Solutions to install two carbon cutter machines near ITO.

The initial plan was to test the effectiveness of the newly launched equipment at ITO, a locality which is known for its unhealthy air quality levels.

However, over three months have passed since then and the Delhi government is yet to take a decision on whether or not to move ahead with the project.

 Delhi governments plan to install carbon cutters gathers dust; project was aimed at curbing air pollution

Pollution in Delhi. File image. AP

The pollution control device is a five-feet high tower with a high-power suction machine inside it. This tower absorbs the PM2.5 and PM10 particles from the air and stores them in a box.

“The box has the capacity to store 10 kilograms of particulate matter. It fills up with dust particles every two months,” said Irfan Pathan, the CEO of the company.

Similar technologies are used by governments across the globe to control ambient outdoor air pollution.

A source in the chief minister’s office told Firstpost that the government did not incur any cost in installation of the two towers.

“It is the company which bore all the costs. The Delhi government only provided the necessary clearances and permissions to enable installation,” the source said.

Though the company claims that the machines suck 90 percent of the particulate matter from the air, the effectiveness of such equipment is still debated.

“It is not possible to control air quality until the sources of pollution are addressed,” said Polash Mukherjee, an environmentalist with the think tank Centre for Science and Environment.

He further added, “Carbon cutter machines do not address the issues related to the source of pollution. Thousands of such machines would have to be installed to get the desired effect.”

Irfan Pathan also admitted that at least 20,000 such towers would have to be installed across Delhi to control air pollution. However, he added that his company is willing to do the same.

“What we expect from the authorities is to give us permission to install the towers and allow us to monetise them by advertising on them,” he said. The towers installed also have a white screen where advertisements can be displayed.

According to Pathan, one such tower can cost between Rs 3 lakh to Rs 7 lakh, depending on its capacity.

When the two towers were installed at ITO, a source in the Delhi government was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that after the trial is completed, the government will decide on the future course of action.

Though more than three months have passed since then, nothing has been decided so far.

“So far, we have not received any communication from the government about the project. So nothing is decided so far,” a source in the Environment and Forest Department said

While Delhi has been recently declared as one of the most polluted cities in the world by the World Health Organisation, Beijing — which faced a similar problem of air quality — has reduced pollution by one-third.

“Beijing made it possible by setting goals, creating plans and implementing the plans within a time frame,” says Mahendra Pandey, who earlier worked with the Central Pollution Control Board.

Pandey further said that controlling the burning of charcoal during winter was a major decision that Beijing implemented. According to him, planning is an aspect which is missing in the case of Delhi.

The Centre has recently notified a Comprehensive Action Plan to control air pollution in Delhi. On the other hand, the Delhi government is still in the process of reviewing its climate change policy.

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Updated Date: May 31, 2018 20:14:53 IST