New Delhi | Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said on Friday that the large smog tower installed at Connaught Place two years ago to reduce air pollution in the vicinity has been shut down arbitrarily on the orders of Delhi Pollution Control Committee Chairman (DPCC) Ashwani Kumar.
The minister told reporters here that Kumar, who assumed the role of DPCC chairman in December, "stopped the release of funds to IIT-Bombay and other agencies working on the project, without informing the government".
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had inaugurated the more-than-24-metre-high smog tower at Connaught Place on August 23, 2021. The city government had formed a team of experts from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to study its impact over two years.
Sharing the smog tower data, Rai had said last year that the giant air purifier could reduce air pollution by 70 to 80 per cent within a radius of 50 metres and by 15 to 20 per cent up to 300 metres.
Officials had previously said the smog tower, built at a cost of Rs 20 crore, could purify the air in a one-kilometre radius at a rate of around 1,000 cubic metres per second.
The smog tower has 40 large fans that draw air from the top of a special canopy structure and release clean air below.
In October, Rai had alleged that the Delhi government's first-of-its-kind study to determine pollution sources in the national capital was unilaterally halted on the orders of Kumar.
The Delhi cabinet had approved the study proposal in July 2021 and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IIT-Kanpur in October 2022.
The estimated cost was more than Rs 12 crore. The Delhi government had released Rs 10 crore to IIT-Kanpur for the procurement of necessary equipment and setting up a centralised supersite for data collection.
However, in February, Kumar made a file note expressing concerns about the "substantial expenses associated with the study" after several meetings with IIT-Kanpur scientists. On October 18, Kumar issued orders to stop the release of the remaining funds to IIT-Kanpur, effectively cancelling the study, Rai had claimed.