Oxygen bar to fake rain: 10 ways India tried to beat its 'airpocalypse'

Oxygen bar to fake rain: 10 ways India tried to beat its 'airpocalypse'

New Delhi oxygen bar
A local resident lies back as he takes in a breath of fresh air at a New Delhi oxygen bar. (Photo: AFP/John MacDougall)

NEW DELHI: From an oxygen bar to artificial rain, a number of initiatives and ideas were floated in 2019 to battle India's pollution crisis.

India is home to 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, with New Delhi named as the capital with the dirtiest air, according to IQ AirVisual, a Swiss-based group that gathers air-quality data globally, and Greenpeace.

Large swathes of north India, including Delhi - a metropolis of about 20 million - are covered under a thick blanket of toxic air at the onset of winter.

READ: Trapped and helpless: How families are fighting Delhi's pollution horror

Vehicle and industrial emissions, dust from building sites, smoke from the burning of rubbish and burning of crop fields contribute to what is locally dubbed as the "airpocalypse".

Here are some ways authorities, engineers and companies tried to help Indians breathe easy:

1. DELHI'S OXYGEN BAR

Delhi residents gasping for fresh air could head to Oxy Pure, a bar that offers 15 minutes of "oxygen enriched air" for about US$7 in seven different flavours ranging from lavender and lemongrass to cinnamon and spearmint.

But it may be a costly affair in a country where the average person spends US$1.80 a day, according to research by Goldman Sachs and news website IndiaSpend.

2. FRESH AIR IN A CAN

When pollution spiked to "hazardous" levels, Indians could go online and order themselves cans of fresh air.

Several companies, like Vitality Air in Canada and Indian brand Pure Himalayan Air, sell "pure air" in 10-litre cans for anywhere between 550 rupees and 5,400 rupees (US$75).

Estimates suggest that the average adult inhales and exhales about 8 litres of air per minute.

READ: Key facts behind Indian capital's toxic smog

3. WEARABLE AIR PURFIER

For those who did not want to be cooped up inside on smoggy days, a wearable air purifier called AirTamer was the answer.

The 50 gram gadget, which can be worn as a necklace, emits negative ions that push pollutants away.

It sells for nearly 10,000 rupees in Delhi, a city described as a "gas chamber" by its own chief minister and where doctors say the air is as bad as smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day.

4. ANTI-SMOG GUN

Delhi residents craving clear skies could turn to an anti-smog gun, which ejects fine droplets of water at high speeds to flush out air pollutants.

Smog mist 1
Official and journalist stands during an anti-smog gun trial in New Delhi on Dec 20, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Sajjad Hussain)

Shaped like a hair dryer and mounted on a flatbed truck, the cannon can blast up to 100 litres of water per minute and get rid of 95 per cent of tiny particulate matter.

Critics, however, called it a quick-fix solution that could do little to combat the noxious air.

READ: Air pollution kills 100,000 Indian kids every year, study finds

5. ODD-EVEN CAR SCHEME

New Delhi's authorities restricted the use of private cars for two weeks in November with the so-called "odd-even" system - allowing cars on alternate days, depending on whether their licence plate ended in an odd or even number.

A man wearing a protective mask crosses a traffic junction on a smoggy morning in New Delhi
A man wearing a protective mask crosses a traffic junction on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, Nov 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

The scheme helped little, prompting environmentalists to call for urgent action to combat air pollution.

6. ARTIFICIAL RAIN

Authorities in the Indian capital considered cloud seeding developed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in an effort to trigger rainfall and bring pollution levels down.

A man wears a mask to protect himself from the pollution as he rides a motorbike in Delhi
A man wears a mask to protect himself from the pollution as he rides a motorbike in Delhi, Nov 7, 2016. (File photo: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

But the plan was stalled as there were no planes or the technical support available to spray the seeds.

7. ROADSIDE AIR PURIFIERS

Dozens of giant air purifiers were installed at busy intersections of Delhi to combat roadside dust and vehicular pollution.

India smog New Delhi pollution
An Indian sweeper cleans a road amid heavy smog in New Delhi on Nov 8, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Sajjad Hussain)

India's top court in November ordered the federal and Delhi governments to install "smog towers" like those in China that can act as pollution vacuum cleaners.

Environmentalists, however, termed them as "band-aid fixes" that did not bring down small particulate matter that can penetrate the lungs and enter the blood system.

READ: India dominates list of world's most polluted cities

8. PURIFIERS AT TAJ MAHAL

Two mobile air purifiers were fitted at the iconic Taj Mahal in November as a toxic haze shrouded the 17th century mausoleum, whose white marble is turning yellow and green weathering filthy air in the world's eighth-most polluted city of Agra.

Taj Mahal air purifier
This photo taken on Nov 5, 2019, shows a vehicle equipped with an air purifier outside the Taj Mahal in Agra. (Photo: AFP/Money Sharma)

9. BUS STOP SHELTERS

Providing a small breather for commuters, several bus stops in Delhi were curtained with thick plastic sheets, creating a what local media called a "fresh air chamber".

India bus stop pollution
Indian commuters wait for buses at a bus stop cooled by air conditioners in New Delhi on May 17, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Money Sharma)

But many said it was gimmickry as people had to step out within minutes and expose themselves to smog.

10. INK FROM POLLUTION

Chakr Innovations, started by IIT engineers, capitalised on fumes from smoke-belching back-up diesel generators by turning the soot into ink and paint.

The technology can capture 90 per cent of dangerous pollutants.

Chakr pollution 1
The ink, called POINK, made from liquefied soot, can be used for printing textiles and paper. (Photo: Atish Patel)

The company has installed more than 50 such devices in government firms and offices as well as real estate developers.

Chakr co-founder Arpit Dhupar stands near a device in Delhi that can be fitted to diesel generators
Chakr co-founder Arpit Dhupar stands near a device in Delhi that can be fitted to diesel generators to capture particulates and turn the pollutants into ink. (Photo: AFP/Money Sharma)

Source: Reuters/zl

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