Can We Vacuum Our Air Pollution Problem Using Smog Towers?

Smog towers idea is crazyIn November 2019, the Supreme Court of India issued a notification to all the states in the National Capital Region of Delhi to install smog towers for clean air and allocated INR 36 crores (~USD 5.2 million) for a pilot. Can we vacuum our air pollution problem using smog towers? The short answer is “no”.

Atmospheric science defines the air pollution problem as (a) a dynamic situation where the air is moving at various speeds with no boundaries and (b) a complex mixture of chemical compounds constantly forming and transforming into other compounds. With no boundaries, it is unscientific to assume that one can trap air, clean it, and release into the same atmosphere simultaneously. In this paper, we outline the basics of atmospheric science to describe why the idea of vacuuming outdoor air pollution is unrealistic, and the long view on air quality management in Indian cities.

Can we vacuum our air pollution problem using smog towers?
Journal article in Atmosphere (2020) Download

Below is a narrative presentation on the journal article, presented at INSEE 2021 Conference.

Smog towers idea is crazyOp-eds on this topic by staff at UrbanEmissions and known colleagues

A towering white elephant
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Why the Delhi Smog Tower Project Is Deeply Problematic Even as a Pilot
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Smog Towers Have No Scientific Basis as a Policy Measure
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Budget for clean air should focus on reducing emissions at source, not wasteful ‘solutions’
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Indian Clean Air Advocates Slam Supreme Court Order Pushing Questionable “Smog Tower” Technology
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Why science isn’t part of the fight against air pollution in India
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Can smog towers fix Delhi’s air? CEEW Analysis (2020)

An Open Letter to the Supreme Court of India Against Outdoor Air Purifiers
Op-Ed in the WIRE (2019)

Purifiers can’t clean up Bengaluru’s air
Op-Ed in Deccan Herald (2019)

Bengaluru will not breathe better air even with 44,000 air purifiers
Op-Ed in the WIRE (2019)

Beware China’s anti-smog tower’ and other plans to pull pollution from the air
Op-Ed in the Conversation (2018)

Why Delhi’s plan for air filters at traffic intersections is a red herring
Op-Ed in the WIRE (2016)

More media stories on anti-smog towers @ IndiaAQ