A Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) team on Wednesday restarted the non-functional anti-smog tower at Connaught Place on Wednesday morning, a day after the Supreme Court ordered the administration to immediately operationalise the tower.
A member of the team said that the plant has been re-operationalised as per the direction of the Supreme Court, and cleaning of the equipment and rooms was being carried out. “The facility was shut down in April. All the fans are now functional and trials are being carried out. We will gradually increase the speed of fans,” the official said.
DPCC did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.
To be sure, experts have long argued that smog towers are not a long-term solution to Delhi’s air pollution problem, and that not only would people have to remain extremely close to the smog tower to breathe clean air, but thousands of such smog towers would have to be installed across the city to bring about a change in air quality.
The anti-smog tower at Connaught Place was installed following a Supreme Court order on January 13, 2020. The Delhi cabinet formally decided on October 9, 2020, that the unit would be installed as a pilot project for two years, and the tower was opened by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in August 2021.
After the facility was shut in April, a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia on Tuesday said, “We want this tower to be working,” and added, “We direct the chairperson of DPCC to remain personally present in court on the next date.”
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai, at a press conference on Wednesday, thanked the Supreme Court for directing that the smog tower is made operational again. “A meeting was held today to implement the SC order issued on Tuesday. We want to thank the Supreme Court, which has directed for the smog tower at Connaught Place – installed by the Delhi government on the top court’s directions, and one that had been halted by DPCC chairman Ashwani Kumar, to be made operational again. It has also asked for the real-time source apportionment study, again halted by Kumar, to also be resumed and for the pollution data to be made public again,” he said.
On November 4, Rai had blamed the DPCC chairman for arbitrarily shutting down the smog tower after dues remained unpaid to IIT-Kanpur, and sought his suspension.
“Using his powers, the DPCC chairman went against Supreme Court order and stopped the payment for the study of smog tower…Following this, the agencies stopped the study and the smog tower was shut,” he had alleged.
“We had written to CM and LG regarding the anti-smog tower and real-time source apportionment study being stopped. Disciplinary action must be taken in this case. The smog tower was set up as per the Supreme Court order but neither the court nor the cabinet was informed before closing it,” he added.