Oxygen bars to fake rain: 10 ways India fights deadly pollution

Other steps included fresh air in can and wearable air purifier in India, home to 15 of world’s 20 most polluted cities.

India pollution
New Delhi's iconic India Gate memorial covered in a thick smog [Amarjeet Singh/Al Jazeera]

From oxygen bars to artificial rain, a number of initiatives and ideas were floated in 2019 to battle the pollution crisis, which, according to reports, killed more than 1 million Indians in 2017.

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 swaths of north India, including New Delhi – a metropolis of about 20 million – are under a thick blanket of toxic air at the onset of winter.


Vehicle and industrial emissions, dust from building sites, smoke from the burning of rubbish and 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. New 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 $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 only $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 (21-pint) cans for anywhere between 550 rupees and 5,400 rupees ($7.7 to $75).

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

India pollution
A protester in New Delhi during a demonstration demanding immediate steps to control air pollution [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

3. Wearable air purifier

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 ($140) in New 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

New Delhi’s 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.

Shaped like a hairdryer and mounted on a flatbed truck, the cannon can blast up to 100 litres (211 pints) of water per minute and get rid of 95 percent of tiny particulate matter.

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

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.

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.


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 New Delhi to combat roadside dust and vehicular pollution.

India’s top court in November ordered the federal and Delhi governments to install “smog towers” – similar to those in China – that can vacuum up pollution.

Environmentalists, however, termed them “band-aid fixes” that did not bring down small particulate matter that can penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

Visitors look toward the Taj Mahal through morning air pollution in Agra
Visitors peer through morning pollution at the Taj Mahal in Agra [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

8. Purifiers at the 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 in the world’s eighth-most polluted city of Agra.


9. Bus stop shelters

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

But many said it was gimmickry as people had to step out within minutes and be exposes to smog again.

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 percent of dangerous pollutants.

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

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies