While inaugurating a 24-metre-high smog tower on August 23, 2021 in New Delhi's Connaught Place area Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, claimed that it was India's first smog tower.
"To fight pollution, we have installed India's first smog tower in Delhi today. Such efforts to clean the air have not been seen anywhere in India before. We brought this new technology from America. It can help clean air within one-kilometre range. It has been installed on an experimental basis and data from it will be analysed by [Indian Institute of Technology] IIT-Delhi and IIT-Bombay," said Kejriwal.
Delhi gets India's first Smog Tower!— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) August 24, 2021
"This has been developed using American technology under the expert supervision of scientists from IITs. If this pilot project is successful, it will be replicated across Delhi"
- CM @ArvindKejriwal pic.twitter.com/igSZRIGc6W
The smog tower uses a downdraft air cleaning system developed by the University of Minnesota in collaboration with IIT-Bombay and has been implemented by the commercial arm of Tata Projects Limited, Anwar Ali Khan, senior environmental engineer in the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to The Indian Express. This tower has an air purification capacity of 1,000 cubic meter/second and 40 wings that will emit purified air in and around 1 sq-km area.
But, the claim that it's the first such tower in the country is false as two smog towers have already been installed in Delhi and Bengaluru before. Several BJP members and social media users were quick to call out the Delhi CM.
दुनिया जग जाहिर है कि दिल्ली मे पहला स्मोग टावर @GautamGambhir ने 20 महीने पहले ही लगवा दिया था तो झूठ के पुलिंदे उतारना बंद करो और विज्ञापन बाजी से बहार आकर दिल्ली की जनता के लिए कुछ काम करना सीखो— Naveen Kumar Jindal 🇮🇳 (@naveenjindalbjp) August 23, 2021
कितने झूठे लोग मरे होंगे तब जाकर ये दिल्ली का महाठग @ArvindKejriwal पैदा हुआ था https://t.co/y7lkPhUuKS
Delhi's first smog tower was installed by Sh @GautamGambhir in 2020. CM Kejriwal has done mastery in lying. Stop misleading the people,they know all your dirty tricks. You're a credit seeker, rest you've done nothing for Delhiites.Wake up from the slumber!https://t.co/FCVie2ObX4 pic.twitter.com/lX3MvA6ZSZ— BJP Delhi (@BJP4Delhi) August 23, 2021
In January 2020, a 20-ft-tall smog tower was installed in South Delhi's Lajpat Nagar Central Market. The technology was installed by the Traders Association Lajpat Nagar (TALN) with the help of east Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir. The cost of the equipment was Rs 7 lakh which was procured by Gautam Gambhir Foundation while the running cost of the device, which was Rs 30,000 was borne by TALN, according to a Hindustan Times report.
Delhi is not the only place in India that has such towers. In March 2021, Nutan Labs, an Indian Institute of Science-incubated start-up, installed Bengaluru's first smog tower as a pilot project at Hudson Circle, near the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) headquarters.
To confirm this, FactChecker contacted HS Nuthan, CEO of Nutan Labs. "We installed this technology in March this year at Hudson Circle in Bangalore. Validation studies have been conducted along with KSPCB [Karnataka State Pollution Control Board] and a CPCB [Central Pollution Control Board] approved real time monitoring device," confirmed Nuthan.
The Bengaluru smog tower uses nanoparticles to absorb pollutants from the air such as PM 2.5, PM 10, oxides of carbon, sulphur, and nitrogen and can purify 15,000 cubic feet of air every minute, he said. It consists of 11 filtration zones, which take about 100 units of electricity per day when used during peak hours.
"It is a nanotechnology-based smog tower where nanotechnology has been incorporated in the development of the filter. Most conventional filters in the market are use and throw based. Once those filters get blocked, we can't reuse it but in our case, this can be reused," Nuthan added.
IQAir, a Swiss air technology company that pulls together air quality indices from across the world, Delhi is most polluted national capital in the world. So, the Supreme Court, in January 2020, directed the Centre to install a smog tower to reduce pollution in Delhi's Anand Vihar and the AAP government to construct one at Connaught Place.
"The metropolitan city or other cities that are identified as non-attainment cities (PM10> 60 µg /m3) under NCAP [National Clean Air Programme] have formulated
the city specific action plans based on the local conditions to tackle air pollution," said the then Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Babul Supriyo in a response he gave in the Lok Sabha on March 13, 2020.
FactChecker tried contacting AAP Spokesperson Raghav Chadha for a clarification on Kejriwal's comment. He said he'd get back to us, but then didn't and did not answer subsequent calls or texts either. The story will be updated as and when he responds.