Aerial sprinkling may fail to take off
New Delhi: Delhi govern- ment’s plan to curb pollution by aerial sprinkling of water may have hit a roadblock with Pawan Hans informing the civil aviation ministry that it doesn’t have the capacity to carry out such an exercise. Earlier at a meeting with Delhi government, AAI and DGCA officials on Monday, the national helicopter carrier had said that it was not feasible to fly helicopters when visibility was poor — especially during smog, which the government is aiming to tackle in the first place.
On Tuesday, aviation secretary R N Choubey said Pawan Hans had informed him about its inability to conduct the exercise. A Delhi government spokesperson, however, said they had received no such intimation. “At Monday’s meeting, Pawan Hans had raised concerns about flying in poor visibility. The other sticking point was no-flying zones — and Delhi has several of them. It was decided that an SOP be created to move ahead and, for that, a committee has already been formed,” the spokesperson said.
Pawan Hans CMD B P Sharma had earlier told TOI that helicopters would have difficulty flying in low visibility. The government had planned to make use of Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s air-ambience fund to carry out sprinkling to settle dust and pollutants after the capital saw seven straight days of “severe” air quality, with the AQI touching 486. Delhi environ- Such a technique has never been employed before and, even if used, would only settle the particulate matter — giving a temporary solution, at best ment minister Imran Hussain had written to Union environment minister Dr Harsh Vardhan last month, asking him to propose to the civil aviation ministry that helicopters be used for this purpose.
Last week, Hussain had tweeted: “Delhi govt is in talks with Pawan Hans for aerial sprinkling of water over the city to bring down particulate matter @ArvindKejriwal @msisodia.” This had come in the wake of an NGT order. The helicopter service company, in aletter, asked the Delhi administration for a meeting to discuss the matter regarding the possibility of carrying out the exercise, which “shall require a comprehensive feasibility study and approvals from various authorities”.
Pawan Hans, an enterprise under the ministry of civil aviation, said it “has the capacity to carry out such assignment and has carried out similar exercises in the past for washing of insulators of high tension lines and agriculture spraying”.
Experts, however, questioned the move, saying it was difficult to assess the efficacy of aerial sprinkling. “No such study has been done to see if it can work. Also, we don’t know how much water will be required. The government should adopt other long-term measures,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment’s clean air programme.
Dipankar Saha, head of CPCB’s air laboratory, said strong “rain” was required to settle particulate matter, otherwise it would render the activity unproductive.
An NDMC worker sprinkles water in Lutyens’ Delhi