High-level Committee Recommendations for fighting Pollution in Delhi-NCR

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Context: Amid high pollution levels and life-threatening air, A high-level committee in its report to the Supreme Court suggests a slew of pilot projects in Delhi-NCR.

Prelims: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change.
Mains: GS III- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

The Supreme Court had directed to form the HLC and look into the feasibility of some technologies to control and monitor pollution.

The HLC has members from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), NEERI, professors from IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kanpur and heads of environmental departments of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.

Recommendations of the HLC:

  1. Painting roads: 
    • There are companies that develop photocatalytic paints, which can remove pollutants from the air in the presence of sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
    • It can be applied on a range of surfaces, such as roofing tiles or even on the surface of roads.
    • Photocatalytic paints contain titanium dioxide [TiO2] which acts as a catalyst when exposed to UV rays and removes atmospheric pollutants.
    • The catalyst converts the pollutants into other categories.
    • The committee has suggested that a pilot study may be taken up by institutions such as IISC and IIT-Kanpur in association with the Ministry of Heavy Industries.
    • The study would be able to find out the effectiveness of paints using nanomaterials for cleaning ambient air, including releasing of other undesirable compounds.
    • But there is a risk that nanomaterials may result in the production of other undesirable components such as nitrous acid and formaldehyde, which will have adverse health impacts.
    • Such products have been used by Dubai municipality in parks and also in Mexico.
    • For example, The introduction of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in order to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in refrigerators led to increased global warming. 
      • HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer but are potent greenhouse gases with long atmospheric lifetimes.
  2. Smog tower:
    • The HLC has also suggested that a pilot project of “smog tower”, as suggested by an expert panel of IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and Department of Science and Technology, may be taken up.
    • A panel from IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi in association with the University of Minnesota had proposed a 20 metre-high smog tower.
    • The proposal had stated that a 65% reduction in pollution can be achieved on an average up to 700 metres from the tower.
    • It is expected to influence the air quality of more than 1 km in the downwind direction.
    • The committee said in its report that smog towers, as per the current knowledge and experience, may not provide a viable solution to improve air quality on a large scale.
    • But since there is a localised effect, the authorities are considering its implementation in selected areas.
  3. Anti-smog gun: 
    • Anti-smog gun is a device that sprays nebulised water droplets into the air through high-pressure propellers, which help particles to settle down.
    • The committee, based on the finding of a study by the CPCB and DPCC, informed the court that anti-smog guns may be effective in controlling localised dust during the period of application.
      • They will be more suitable for high dust emission zones such as large construction sites.
    • After a Supreme Court order, the CPCB and DPCC conducted tests in Delhi and Gurugram and found a reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 levels in areas where the anti-smog guns were used.
  4. Oxy furnace:
    • Oxy furnace uses only oxygen as fuel instead of atmospheric air (which contains nitrogen), thus reducing the production of NOx by about 90% in industries.
    • The report recommended that a study led by MoHIPE in association with Centre for Development of Glass Industry, NIFFT and others may be conducted to assess the feasibility of implementation of oxy furnaces in glass, metallurgical and power industries in India.
    • But the report also said that NOx is mostly released in urban centres from vehicles and not industries.
    • The committee has also recommended the use of chemical methods, including dust suppressants, to control air pollution.
  5. Wireless Sensor Network: 
    • Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) technology to monitor air pollution is still in the developmental stage and IIT and NEERI are reviewing its performance.
    • The committee has informed that WSN may be used as an indicative monitoring tool for a few activities like mining & large construction sites.
    • This will supplement air quality data and report to a regulator for conducting further investigation.
  6. LiDAR:
    • LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging is a high-end application of LASER-based technology for monitoring pollution.
    • The HLC has recommended that this technology may be adopted for vertical monitoring at a few places to track the transport of pollutants at higher altitude.

How does a smog tower work?

  • It is a structure of concrete that has multiple layers of filters.
  • The smog tower sucks the polluted air, which is purified by these layers before re-circulated into the atmosphere.
  • To purify the air, the highly effective H14 grade Highly Effective Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filter would be used.
  • This filter can clean up to 99.99% Particulate Matter (PM) present in the air with the help of pre-filter and activated carbon.

India is planning to install the smog tower in National Capital Delhi. Smog tower will be a 40 feet high and 20 feet wide structure to clean 32 million cubic metres of air per day.

What is Wireless Sensor Network?

  • Wireless sensor network (WSN) refers to a group of spatially dispersed and dedicated sensors for monitoring and recording the physical conditions of the environment and organizing the collected data at a central location.
  • WSNs measure environmental conditions like temperature, sound, pollution levels, humidity, wind, and so on.
  • Wireless sensor networks have evolved from the idea that small wireless sensors can be used to collect information from the physical environment in a large number of situations like:
    1. wildfire tracking
    2. animal observation
    3. agriculture management
    4. industrial monitoring, etc.

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