Delhi has been battling choking smog, prompting doctors to declare a public health emergency. The government came up with a plan: use helicopters to combat the air pollution. But there’s a problem: the helicopters can’t fly because the smog is so bad.
Delhi’s government had asked state-owned company Pawan Hans to come up with a plan to deploy helicopters to drizzle water across the beleaguered city, with the hope it would help settle the smog. But Pawan Hans told city officials this week the choppers couldn’t fly in the haze. Chairman and managing director BP Sharma told The Indian Express, “Right now, with the prevailing smog, it is not possible for the helicopters to carry out operations.”
There’s another roadblock that stands in the way: almost half of Delhi, according to an official, is part of a no-fly zone. This includes the city’s southern quarters where the prime minister, presidency, and parliament are based – and according to The Guardian, the no-fly zone is strictly policed. A Delhi government spokesperson told The Indian Express, “There are a few issues and these will be worked out while creating the [standard operating procedure]. All stakeholders are being consulted.”
Experts had questioned the plan – one called it “nothing more than a load of hot air,” according to India Today. Mukesh Khare, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi professor who’s spent years working on urban air pollution, said the solution was impractical and would waste water and money, telling India Today the plan hadn’t been used anywhere in the world to take down air pollution, and that the water would dry rapidly, sending officials back to square one in a few hours.
52 percent of the particulate matter in Delhi’s air comes from dust kicked up by tens of thousands of cars, according to a 2015 study cited by The Guardian. Other factors like uncovered soil and sand from construction sites, crop burning, and slow winds have also played a role in the pollution.