The Delhi government’s hopes that national helicopter carrier Pawan Hans will help sprinkle water to dissipate smog were dashed on Monday after it was told that the helicopters cannot fly in such low visibility — a fallout of the same smog the government hopes to contain. On Monday, Environment Minister Imran Hussain held a meeting with Pawan Hans and some central government departments, including the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, and said the government had decided to work out a standard operating procedure for sprinkling of water through helicopters.
Pawan Hans CMD B P Sharma, however, told The Indian Express, “Right now, with the prevailing smog, it is not possible for the helicopters to carry out operations. We have communicated the same to the Delhi government. There was a meeting regarding this on Monday.”
Last week, Pawan Hans had agreed to help the Delhi government set up procedures to make it possible to aerially sprinkle water over the city so pollutants can settle. The quality of air in Delhi, the NCR and in several north Indian cities has remained in the “severe” and “par severe” category for over a week.
Apart from visibility, another key obstacle is that a large portion of Delhi is a ‘no-fly zone’, officials said. “Almost half of Delhi falls under the no-fly zone due to high security areas, particularly Lutyens’ Delhi,” an official said.
Asked about these issues, a Delhi government spokesperson said, “There are a few issues and these will be worked out while creating the SOP. All stakeholders are being consulted.”
Earlier, in a letter, Pawan Hans said it has carried out such tasks in the past as well, and suggested setting up a joint group of the government and its own team to work out a proposal.
In October, the AAP government had proposed the idea to the Centre and offered to pay to have water sprinkled over the city to control air pollution in winter. Hussain had asked Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan to take up the matter with the Civil Aviation Ministry.
Vardhan last week said the Centre had asked Delhi to examine whether the method was cost-effective as compared to other, simpler measures. “If the Delhi government thinks sprinkling water from helicopters is the most cost-effective measure, it is free to do so. I call for cost-effective measures since management of air pollution requires sustained actions over a long period of time to be effective,” he had said.