Delhi’s pollution blights its inhabitants’ lives. Source: Shutterstock

Delhi’s poisonous air smells sweet to local entrepreneurs

THE LEVEL of pollution in some areas of the world is causing major health problems among local populations, with massive knock-on effects on industry as sickness levels at work rise.

In the Indian city of Delhi, rising levels of pollution and atmospheric particulate matter have become the cause of several ailments, including premature births, allergic reactions, respiratory problems, heart and lung disease and an increase in cancer rates.

But some city-based entrepreneurs are fighting back with innovative new methods of coping with the smog, and are even able to capitalize on their solutions to the problem.

The National Capital Region (NCR) surrounding Delhi and the city itself suffer due to a complex mixture of pollutants from human activity, such as industry of all levels, traffic, fuel burning, and construction.

Problems are exacerbated by weather conditions which can trap the pollution close to the ground and prevent atmospheric movement. Additionally, airflows emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan bring emissions from the population centers of Punjab and Haryana and increase the noxious soup of toxicity which blights the NCR.

Switzerland comes to India

Delhi-based businessman Kamal Meattle has created an office building in his home city which circulates clean air to its tenants, air which has been cleansed by a clever mixture of natural methods and technology.

The Paharpur Business Centre contains around 7,000 potted plants and creepers, distributed throughout its many rooms and corridors. But the greenery on view, while helpful to both air quality and the quality of life while at work, is only part of the solution.

The building’s greenhouse terrace at the top of the structure houses an “air washing” system which moves polluted air from outside through a series of filters which “scrub” the air.

The air is then fed into the greenhouse where the plants remove bacteria, fungus, carbon dioxide and other unpleasantnesses before the air conditioning system moves the now Swiss Alps-like atmosphere to workers on the floors below.

The air in the greenhouse contains practically no particles of less than 2.5 micrometers width per liter (the smaller the particle, the worse for human health); the air quality index outside is 415, which is 16 times the World Health Organization’s safe limit.

Meattle’s project began after advice from his doctor to leave the city went unheeded – he loves Delhi and had no intention of moving somewhere where the air might be cleaner.

Tenants at his office block include Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft, and the building is now rated the city’s most healthy by the Indian government.

Inky pollution becomes ink

Started by graduates from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Chakr Innovations has capitalized on the smoke-belching generators which are such a part of Delhi’s environment.

The Chakr Shield converts carbon and other fine particles, including the horribly harmful PM0.3 and PM2.5 specks, into a kind of liquified soot by means of chemical and heat-exchange processes.

The soot is then mixed with a solvent and is processed into ink pigments and paints. The Chakr Shields have been fitted at 18 offices across Delhi to date, and 30 companies have signed up to use the technology; the roster includes Dell, which intends to use the reclaimed ink for printing its packaging.

Co-founder of Chakr Innovations, Arpit Dhupar, said in an interview with Zee News, that in 18 months, the machines have collected carbon that otherwise would have polluted about 1.5 billion liters of air.

“We are running out of clean, breathable air in Delhi and our definitive objective is to make the access to clean air a basic right for everyone,” he said.