In order to improve the national capital’s air quality, the Delhi government has recently decided to install anti-smog guns at major construction sites and key intersections across the city.
An anti-smog gun sprays tiny droplets of atomized (high-pressured) water into the air, creating artificial mist. Those small water droplets stick to pollutants transported by air and bring them to the ground. Anti-smog guns can spray water up to a height of 50 meters to settle dust particles and PM 2.5, a fine particulate matter that can be very harmful for people’s health if present in the air at high levels. In fact, the value registered at Anand Vihar, a railway station in East Delhi was 380, being 15 times higher than the safe maximum of the World Health Organization.
The introduction of these mist cannons across the city sparked debate among several parties.
Although the manufacturer, Cloud Tech, claims that the anti-smog gun can clear up to 95% of the pollutants in the air, Greenpeace argues that the introduction of these water cannons is just a distraction from the real causes of air pollution in Delhi. Moreover, they come with a huge toll on the environment as each water cannon blasts about 100 liters of water every minute.
D. Saha, scientist at the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) also pointed out that such mist cannons are not effective for very fine particles and that the limited radius of 25 to 50 meters in which the anti-smog gun sprays water is very underwhelming compared to the scale of the situation: “This system can’t be applied in an area like Delhi, it can only work in a confined area like a stadium and not in open areas. Even to control dust, it would take at least 50,000 such machines to control bigger particles in the air across Delhi, which has an area of 1,484 square kilometres.”
Although gentrification has been singled out for many years as the cause of poor air quality in India’s largest cities, Delhi’s municipality also started pointing out agricultural practices as another source of air pollution. Farmers tend to burn their agricultural waste in order to clear cropland, which also contributes to the stuffy haze crowding up in the air.
Even though opinions are divided as to the cause of this pollution, everyone agrees that air quality is the poorest in winter. Air pollution in winter remains in place for much longer and therefore is breathed in at a higher rate than during the summer. Indeed, cold air is denser and moves slower than warm air, which means that cold air traps the pollution coming from open fires, car exhausts, crop burning, industrial emissions and construction dust but also doesn’t whisk it away.
In February we will host a Guided Smog Smelling meditation session in Delhi as part of our research project Smog Tasting. This event will be part of a festival organized by KHOJ called “Does the Blue Sky Lie?: Testimonies of Air’s Toxicities”.
The purpose of Guided Smog Smelling is to activate our bodies, lungs and sense of smell and to experience, with intention, the unique atmospheric moment we are living through. As this performance will be situated next to a site that has anti-smog guns, we are interested to learn from participants whether they change -or not- the flavor of the site.