New Delhi has looked to reduce its air pollution problems with the opening of its first ‘smog tower’ this week, with attention turning to how it could potentially reduce pollution levels in Sydney.

According to a study conducted by Reuters, approximately 50,000 people die prematurely due to pollution levels in the city. Concentrations of deadly particles in the New Delhi air consistently exceed safety limits by up to 20 times, and the colder months see the city engulfed in a dense blanket of smog. 

The $2 million tower comprises 40 giant fans over 25 metres. It will pump 1000 cubic metres of air per second, halving the amount of particles in the air within a kilometre radius. 

To compare the two cities, Sydney rates a score of 17 on the World Air Quality Index, meaning air quality is good. New Delhi, on the other hand, rates a 72, giving it a moderate air quality score. Given that these towers can only purify the air within a square kilometre of its location, there is clearly some opposition. 

Karthik Ganesan from India’s Council on Energy, Environment and Water says the money spent on the tower should be directed towards the sources of the air pollution, including cars, construction and waste combustion.

"Let's just be clear that this is futile, an absolute waste," he says in an interview with the AFP.

"Now that taxpayers' money has been spent, let Delhi be the test case for all other Indian cities... to ensure no other city spends on such ideas which we can't afford.”

Given the comparison in population and industry between Sydney and New Delhi, a smog tower in Sydney would make a greater difference to air quality in the immediate area, but the supersized outdoor air conditioner is very much a band-aid solution to a very real problem in the Indian capital.

According to the World Health Organisation, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities are located in India. A study published in the peer-reviewed general medical journal Lancet uncovered that 1.67 million deaths in the country are attributable to air pollution. 

Image credit: Al Jazeera