Delhi Environment Minister seeks suspension of officials who canceled smog tower project

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Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on November 4 wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, calling the operation of a large smog tower installed at Connaught Place two years ago to reduce air pollution “arbitrary.” It called for the suspension of Delhi Pollution Control Board Chairman Ashwani Kumar for “stopping the operation.”

In his letter to Kejriwal, Rai also sought to discipline project director Anwar Ali, whom the minister accused of changing his position on the effectiveness of smog towers under pressure from Kumar. He also asked for punishment.

Rai said that as per the Supreme Court’s directions, two smog towers in Delhi have been set up at Connaught Place under DPCC and Anand Vihar under Central Pollution Control Board.

Kumar, who took over as DPCC chairman in December, stopped funding to Bombay Institute of Technology and other institutions working on the project without notifying the government, which Rai deemed to be in contempt of court. .

“I have accused DPCC Chairman Ashwani Kumar of disrespecting the Supreme Court’s directions, not implementing the decisions of the Council of Ministers, and arbitrarily suspending and failing to pay operating and maintenance fees. I would like to recommend suspension and disciplinary action. I would like to take a decision on the merits of the study and submit it to the Cabinet to ensure that the smog towers were not reopened several months after the monsoon, which will reduce the pollution level. This prevented the formation of a clean air zone at a time when air pollution was expected to rise,” Lai wrote. .

Chief Minister Kejriwal inaugurated a smog tower over 24 meters high at Connaught Place on August 23, 2021. The city government had formed a team of experts from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay to study the impact. 2 years.

Also read | Delhi government studies how to reduce air pollution using anti-smog guns and water sprinklers

Sharing data from the smog tower, Rai had said last year that the giant air purifier could reduce air pollution by 70-80% within a radius of 50 meters and by 15-20% within 300 meters.

Officials had previously said that the smog tower, built at a cost of 20 million rupees, would be able to purify the air in a radius of one kilometer at a rate of about 1,000 cubic meters per second.

The smog tower has 40 large fans that suck in air from the top of a special canopy structure and release clean air below.

Rai claimed in October that the Delhi government’s first survey to identify the source of pollution in the capital was unilaterally halted on Kumar’s orders.

The Delhi Cabinet approved the research proposal in July 2021 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IIT-Kanpur in October 2022.

Also read | Smog towers are not the final solution to pollution, says Central Pollution Control Board official

The estimated cost was over Rs 12 million. The Delhi government had spent Rs 10,000 crore on IIT-Kanpur for procuring necessary equipment and setting up a centralized supersite for data collection.

However, in February, after several meetings with scientists from IIT and Kanpur, Kumar wrote a file memo expressing concerns about the “hefty costs associated with the research”, Rai claimed.

On October 18, Kumar issued an order halting the release of remaining funds to IIT Kanpur, effectively halting research, he said.

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