Two years after they were installed by the Delhi government to keep pollution levels in check, the two smog towers are not only layered with dust but are on the verge of becoming history.
The state government inaugurated the country’s first smog tower in Connaught Place, in August 2021, followed by a second one in Anand Vihar, in September 2021 after the Supreme Court of India had mentioned the need.
“It is shut down for the last 7-8 months. Thirteen people used to work here. But only 3 guards are left now. The rest of the workers have been fired by the company. They (the remaining three) can also be fired on October 20 due to the financial crisis,” said a person connected with the tower to Patriot on the condition of anonymity.
Each of the two towers cost Rs 20 crore.
The 20-metre high structures made by Tata group, which were expected to improve air quality within a radius of one and half kilometres, have been reduced to becoming white elephant.
Patriot visited both the towers and found that the structures meant to purify the air were themselves coated with dust.
“It functioned for a year at the most. Now, it is totally shut and inoperational. They (Delhi Pollution Control Committee) didn’t pay the Tata company so they are closing this. Tata Projects have informed Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) through an email that they will close this tower by October 20 and will courier the keys of the tower,” an employee told Patriot about tower located at Baba Kharak Singh Marg in Connaught Place.
The fans of the tower were also dirty. The clock on the tower was shut and the LED was not working.
Vivek, who worked as the electrician at the Connaught Place smog tower, has also been fired.
He told Patriot, “Our contract was for two years. But we got a notice in April that our service will end in 3-4 days. We got only 15 days’ salary that month and there was no compensation. I have faced many problems after that. Maybe, there was a bill (financial) issue between them (Company and DPCC).
“We worked for over a year there. Ten of us were given a notice period of just 2-4 days before being fired. Now I am working as an electrician, picking up temporary work here and there, but don’t have permanent job,” he said.
Anand Vihar smog tower
When Patriot visited Anand Vihar to check the smog tower, the situation was not much different from the one that plagued CP.
The tower, which is just besides the Anand Vihar Metro Station, was not functioning at all. A guard there said that it was running until last month and has been temporarily shut for a few days because only the ‘filter’ needed to be replaced.
The condition of the tower, however, narrated a different story. The LED was shut and some birds had made a nest on it, which could be seen clearly from afar.
Ironically, what stood out was the board near the gate, mentioning the inauguration ceremony of the tower by cabinet minister Bhupendra Yadav and Ashwini Chaubey on September 7, 2021 on the occasion of ‘International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies’.
No response from officials
Patriot contacted the site in-charge Shailendra, who first refused to speak saying that the media isn’t allowed near the tower before putting the responsibility of answering the media queries on DPCC.
“Talk to DPCC, I won’t say anything. No payment has been made, that’s all,” he asserted.
Tata Projects had built both the towers with support from IIT-Bombay, and in collaboration with IIT-Delhi.
As per Tata Projects’ website: ‘The smog tower’s 40 huge fans suck air from the top of a special type of canopy structure and release clean air filtered through novel geometry filters.”
Patriot also tried to contact DPCC’s senior environment engineer Anwar Ali Khan, and asked about the situation.
However, he refused to speak and give any explanation on the matter.
Air quality in Delhi has continued to worsen and recently moved to “poor” category with the air quality index (AQI) reaching close to 250 at the start of this week.
According to Swiss air quality technology company, IQAir, Delhi is the second most polluted capital in the world.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report in August 2023, Delhi’s annual average PM 2.5 level in 2021 was 126.5 µg/m3, more than 25 times the WHO guidelines.