Monday, January 4, 2016


Pollution has become one of the greatest threats to our lives, taking a toll on the lungs of our children, and in some cases affecting also their kidneys. It can also lead to Asthma and cancer. In many cities around the world, the polluted air combined with the morning fog generates ‘smog’ which is a real poison. Doctors have declared that the lungs of a metropolitan city based person are like a clogged filter, most unlike those of a mountain-based person breathing fresh air.

Various steps are being taken around the world, ranging from USA up to Japan, to deal with this problem.  In some of the cities privately owned vehicles are banned from entry into the city-center. The latest of these steps being currently being applied in our own country is the ‘Odd–and-Even’ Number-Plate formula to restrict driving on the roads on alternate days of the week.

The pollutants in the city air consist of dust; hydrocarbons – burnt or un-burnt; smoke; and polluting gases. Dust can come from sand deserts, blown in by the wind; or, from the construction sites. The hydrocarbons occur in the air owing to the exhaust from vehicles. This consists normally of the burnt fuel. Even more polluting can be the un-burnt fuel being emitted in the exhaust of 2-stroke vehicles (scooters); and vehicles having worn-out pistons rings and cylinders. You may notice the smoke coming out prominently on the top of a flyover, where the load on the engine is the maximum. The hydrocarbons from diesel vehicles are found to be much more harmful, as compared to those from petrol-vehicles.

Let it be clear right from the concept level that no short-term ideas are being offered here. All the ideas that follow require long-term planning, and adequate arrangement of funds for their implementation. These would involve mandatory modifications to vehicles.

This is to assure that all the ideas proposed here are technically feasible. The only question could be the financial viability and the will on part of the Government and the vehicle-makers.

Filtering Ducts placed on Top of the Commercial Vehicles
We all know that all air-conditioned vehicles have a filter in the front, leading the filtered air to the compressor. The same idea is being proposed here, but on top of the bus or the truck (it being a truck with a top).  There would be a power-driven fan at the top front end of the vehicle, with a tubular duct laid along the length of the truck, ending into a filter. In fact, there could be a number of such ducts laid out parallel to one another, each one of these leading to its filter at the end or, alternatively, a single large duct with a rectangular opening in the front.

This means that the same vehicle that pollutes the road is made responsible for scavenging the air above it. Such filters would remove all particles of size above 5 microns passing through. The dirty filter could be replaced with a fresh one at the end of the duty-shift.

Portable Electro-Static Precipitators mounted on Top of the Commercial Vehicles
ESPs or Electro-Static Precipitators were created originally to bring down the coal-dust rising through the chimneys of thermal power plants. In this case, the particles get electrostatically negatively-charged as these pass between two parallel plates, and go to stick themselves to positively-charged collection-plates; or are brought down from the atmosphere by induction-caused high-frequency vibrations. This would mean that at the end of the journey the top of the vehicle would require either wiping or washing down the particles collected.

There would be a duct wide enough to cover the width of the vehicle, laid out along the length of the vehicle, followed by the Portable ESP mounted at the end. This would mean an extra load for the vehicle, as well as extra-fuel consumption due to the air-resistance caused by the super-structure mounted on the vehicle. Despite this handicap, should the idea result in the removal of the particulate matter from the air, it would be worthwhile implementing it.

Cleansing the Air with a Spray of Water emitted from a traveling open-top tanker
Some of us are aware that till a few decades back, it was usual to see a passing tanker sprinkling water on the dusty roads. Many of us know that after it rains, the pollution level goes down. The drops of water bring down not only the particulate matter but also absorb the toxic gases, to some extent.

Let us now imagine a slow-moving, open-top water tanker passing along the road. It would be having jets of water emitted upwards into the air from the front end of the tank. As the vehicle moved ahead, the water tossed into the air would drop down into the rear half of the tanker. While it would make the air wet, no water would be spilt on the roads. In other words, only the air would have been washed; not the roads. Gradually, as the tanker moved, the water carried by it would have got dirtier.

As the tanker reached the end of its journey, the level of water in it would have gone down; reduced mainly by the amount sprayed that remained in the air; further down by the amount that evaporated. It would then be required to drain out the dirty water, and to replenish the empty space in the tanker with a supply of fresh water.  The amount of dirt collected would be indicative of the pollution removed from the city road.

Making the city ‘Out-of-Bounds’ for Incoming Diesel-Driven Trucks
We all know that ships voyaging in the sea never reach the sea-beach, but these get berthed some distance away from it. The material carried on the ships is brought to the shore on barges, or in smaller boats. Let us apply the same analogy to trucks traveling between the cities.

Diesel-operated trucks bringing in the supplies should terminate their journey at the periphery of the city. From there the goods should be trans-shipped to the city though the use of CNG-operated mini-trucks; or through electrically operated vehicles. As an off-shoot, it would also expose contraband material, if any, being brought into the city from border towns. This would also help the police to monitor possible terrorist activities.

Taxes are levied on all passenger and commercial vehicles, by the Central and the State governments. These include Excise Duties and Sales-Tax. It is suggested here that if the government bodies could make a sacrifice of the tax-earnings for one year (min.) on Electrically-driven vehicles, it would serve as a great incentive for the people to switch over to this mode of transport.

Battery-Exchange booths could be permitted at various points in the city, where the users could exchange their spent battery for a charged one on payment.

The government would be able to make up the loss of revenue by having saved some money otherwise meant to be spent on health schemes to treat the people affected by pollution.  After seeing the results, the scheme could be extended year after year. This would make our future generations grateful to the nation for having taken appropriate and timely care of them.

- (CAVALIER) SURENDRA KUMAR -                                                Jan. 4, 2016

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