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Giant ‘gun’ claims to shoot down air pollution

Government officials in the Indian capital New Dehli have tested an anti-pollution ‘gun’ that claims to ‘shoot down’ harmful air pollution.

The unlikely device consists of a large red fan mounted on the back of a truck. Water is pumped through the fan to create an artificial rain which its designers claim soaks up air pollution.

Perhaps unsurprisingly air pollution experts have dismissed the trial as a political gimmick and the tests’ results have shown the machine failed to significantly reduce the level of harmful particulate matter in the air.

Dharmesh Shah, a campaigner who works with communities to develop skills and assess the impact of pollution across India told META:

“This is neither a scientific nor a sensible solution. The air pollution crisis is a result of multiple factors that cannot be fixed through end of the pipeline interventions“

The ‘end of the pipeline’ refers to solutions that claim to tackle pollution once it is already in the air. Like other experts, Shah says this approach is wrong and that pollution must be prevented at its source and emissions stopped from entering the air in the first place.

Towns and cities across Asia have been struggling to cope with extreme smog events and deadly air pollution this winter.

In November photos emerged of the Belgian King and Queen struggling to inspect a guard of Indian soldiers in Delhi and earlier this month an international cricket game was disrupted because players, who were already wearing masks, became too sick to be able to continue play.

Yet while royal visits, international sports and gimmicky solutions get public attention, real people feel the impact of pollution every day.

According to a recent study published in the Lancet, pollution is the number one environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world, accounting for three times more deaths that AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. The World Health Organisation says that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds their guidelines.

Margherita Tolotto, who works on air pollution for the EEB, says that while the impact of air pollution is clear in the deadly smog clouds of India, it’s often less obvious here in Europe:

“Extreme pollution events like we’re seeing in India are less common in Europe, but not unknown. A cloud of toxic smog has descended on Warsaw just this week. The World Health Organisation guidelines are not being met in most European cities. So it’s clear this is an issue that will require both local and global solutions.”

While campaigners continue their calls for more clean, efficient and renewable energy, greater investment in public transport, stricter limits on industrial production, the phasing out of coal power and a move to more sustainable farming, one thing is clear: the solution is not a giant red water cannon.

As Shah points out, the device’s first fatal flaw is its own energy demands:

“Ironically the power to run this machine is perhaps being sourced from a coal-fired power plant which is contributing to the pollution load in Delhi.”