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Scientists find a way to irrigate with wastewater

Jun 15, 2016

Water4Crops, a research collaboration between India and EU has demonstrated how industrial and municipal wastewater can be treated and reused to delivers higher crop yields.

New Delhi: A joint EU-India collaboration aiming at the safe reuse of wastewater for agricultural purposes was unveiled here today.

Midwifed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the collaboration is a consortium of 21 EU partners from eight countries and an Indian consortium of 11 research and development partners – including researchers and academia and civil society institutions like the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) besides business partners.

Providing an overview of the findings from the project, Dr Suhas P Wani, Project Leader and Director, Asia Region, ICRISAT said that the experiments on the reuse of wastewater has resulted in higher crop yields are successful new results.

The project also proved that the construction of wetlands reduces the amount of pollutants in wastewater by 30 to 92 per cent while the reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate fields has shown increased yields of up to 40 per cent in crops like okra, eggplant and chilly plants.

According to Dr Wani, “This technology of treated domestic wastewater is finding acceptance amongst the rural people and has good potential to scale-up in the country to address the issues of health and sanitation in rural areas as well as meeting the water demand for agriculture.”

Y S Chowdhary, India’s Minister of State of the Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences, dwelled on the importance of treated wastewater for addressing demand of scarce water resources for agriculture to improve the livelihoods. He also felt that this addressed the issues of sanitation and health in rural areas, a thrust of the present Indian government.

Also present at the occasion, the Ambassador of the European Union to India, Tomasz Kozlowski, said, “This project is a good example of how top-level research organizations from several European countries have joined forces with their counterparts in India to develop concrete solutions that benefit both sides. We continue this partnership with India through the Water Forum."

The project offers a view of the largest exposition of EU and Indian collaboration in the area of science and technology and the ambassador highlighted the similar objectives in the area of research policies – in particular a focus on innovation and on common societal challenges such as health, water and energy.

“Water is clearly a worldwide challenge and therefore its management requires new approaches and technologies. This is an area where the EU has significant experience and we are happy to work together with India,” he said.

The Indian consortium partners have demonstrated the use of constructed wetlands as decentralized wastewater treatment systems for both industrial and municipal wastewater in multiple locations in the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.

Under the project work, many wetland plant species, mainly lemon grass, napier, para grass water hyacinth, water lettuce and a weed species, Agaratum conyzoides, have been identified for purifying the wastewater. They will also be helpful in reducing the nutrient load in the free-water-surface and sub-surface constructed wetlands, the scientists said.

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