What’s the news?
- According to CPCB, Technologies such as smog towers are interventions that are still being tested and are not a final solution to the problem of pollution. The ultimate solution to pollution would be controlling it at source.
- To address Delhi’s exorbitant winter level pollution, smog tower that consists of a large fan, housed in a tower to suck in polluted air and then have it pass through multiple particulate matter filters, was proffered as a solution.
- A pilot project worth Rs.20 crore was commissioned in Delhi following a Supreme Court order and was inaugurated by Delhi Chief Minister on August 23, 2021.
- Initial reports by the Delhi government claimed a reduction of as much as 80% in pollution but several experts have since measured and reported that the pollution reductions are half and that too only in the immediate proximity of the tower.
- While the Delhi government has committed to monitoring its performance every month, no reports have so far been made public.
- The Central government has a National Clean Air Programme that covers 122 cities, which do not meet the prescribed national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).
- Delhi is expected to get over Rs.18 crore from the Centre under the NCAP to cater to critical gaps in air pollution management.
About National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
- NCAP is a pollution control initiative that was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in January 2019. This is the first ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
- It aims to reduce particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) pollution by 20-30% in 122 cities by 2024, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) executes this nation-wide programme.
- Under NCAP, 122 non-attainment cities have been identified across the country based on the Air Quality data from 2014-2018.
- Apart from experts from the industry and academia, the programme is a collaboration between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, and Central Pollution Control Board.
- City specific action plans have been prepared which include measures for strengthening the monitoring network, reducing vehicular/industrial emissions, increasing public awareness etc.
- Implementation of the city specific action plans are regularly monitored by Committees at Central and State level namely Steering Committee, Monitoring Committee and Implementation Committee.
- Air quality of cities is monitored by State Pollution Control Boards which publishes their results from time to time.
What is Smog?
- Smog is air pollution that reduces visibility.
- It was first described over 5 decades ago as a mixture of smoke and fog, hence the name “smog”—but today it has a more specific definition and composition.
- Smog is made up of many chemicals including nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but the two main components of smog are particulate matter (PM) and ground-level ozone (O3).
- Particle pollution includes:
- PM10 : inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
- PM2.5 : fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.
- Today, most of the smog we see is photochemical smog. Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere.
- Nitrogen oxides come from car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions. VOCs are released from gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents. When sunlight hits these chemicals, they form airborne particles and ground-level ozone which appears as smog.
Why is it harmful?
- Smog causes multiple health problems, such as difficulty in breathing, eye irritation, asthma, reduced immunity to lung infections, and colds that can be fatal in children.
- The ozone in the smog also inhibits plant growth. It can cause widespread damage to crops and forests, and the haze reduces visibility.
- When inhaled, smog irritates our airways, increasing our risk of serious heart and lung diseases. These health risks are why many cities monitor smog levels.