Thursday, 15 October 2015


In recent years, the management and mitigation of the various phenomenon brought about by anthropogenic manipulation of the environment has assumed considerable importance. Many countries, including India, have endeavoured to develop innovative techniques to curb environmental degradation and optimize the use of their natural resources. The need for adoption of environmentally sustainable practices has been globally recognized and numerous projects have been developed to that end. Here are a few examples from India and around the world:

Use of Ducks To Treat Grey And Black Water, India
Treatment and management of sewage is a serious issue in India. The average wastewater generated per capita per day in India is around 121 litres. Also , it has been found that around 73% of sewage generated in Indian cities finds its way into rivers and other water bodies sans any treatment. Economic, easy to maintain and sustainable solutions are needed for efficient sewage management in our country and the Indian green service, a trust operating out of Tamil Nadu, has taken a step towards that. Developing an ingenious way to reduce the biological oxygen demand while ensuring aeration, the IGS has used ducks and catfishes to treat the municipal sewage generated at Vellore. The infrastructure consists of five treatment tanks, inhabited by around 150 ducks. The ducks take up all algae, insects, worms and other organic matter as food. This results in increased penetration of sunlight which acts as a natural disinfectant, preventing mosquitoes. The constant paddling action of ducks facilitates increased aeration. After about a month, 10-15 catfishes are introduced in the tanks. These consume the algae on the side walls and other small organisms that escape the ducks. In this manner, 3,00,000 litres of water is recycled each day. In addition to recycled water, the rearing of ducks also results in other commercial gains. Their droppings serve as good source of manure and their eggs are consumable and provide a good source of income.

Rice-Fish Culture
Excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides results in rampant pollution of the groundwater and rivers in addition to soil degradation. A notable solution to this problem, practiced in rice growing countries like India, China and Bangladesh is Rice-Fish Culture. It involves farmers introducing small, indigenous fish into their rice fields. The fishes provide a source of fertilizer with their droppings, eat pests and help to circulate oxygen around the rice fields while being protected from birds among the dense rice plants. Farmers have reported that keeping fish can increase rice yields up to 10% while also providing an additional supply of fishes. This practice results in better crop yield while significantly reducing the pollution caused by the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Waste Handling And Management, Germany And Singapore
Management of municipal wastes, both solid and liquid, is an uphill task for any growing economy. While most countries struggle with staggering figures and insufficient infrastructure, Germany and the city-state of Singapore lead by example. Power generation and recycling take care of 98% of Singapore's solid waste while only 2% is sent to landfills. Almost 3% of the country's electricity needs are met by its waste-to-energy plants and the recycling rates are at an all-time high of 60%. The European Union has set a target of 50% waste recycling to be achieved by 2020. In Germany, this target has been already met with 62% of their waste being recycled as of 2010. The target for biodegradable municipal waste, set for 2016, was met in 2006. Both Germany and Singapore have displayed exceptional capacities in waste handling by following one simple methodology: reduction in amounts of landfills and a move towards incineration as final disposal. Also, an increased stress reduction and recycling of wastes- looking at disposal as a final option.

Potatoes From Briny Soil, Netherlands
Approximately 70% of the world's freshwater is used by the agriculture industry. Studies have shown that the worldwide salinisation of agricultural land will escalate under the influence of climate change. To combat this issue, the research facility 'Tested on Texel' in Netherlands is testing the possibility of agriculture under salty conditions. The research focuses on cultivation of vegetation, including potatoes, in briny soil. The 'briny potato' has a very rich mineral composition and an exceptionally good taste. Similar projects have been started in Egypt.

Water Square, Netherlands
Only about 50% of the land in the Netherlands exceeds one metre above sea level and most of the area below sea level is manmade. Netherlands is a very densely populated country with insufficient land available to combat the increasing frequency as well as intensity of rains. The idea of water squares was conceived to compensate for the unavailability of land to harvest rainwater. A multifunctional water square has been created in the city of Rotterdam with temporary rainwater catchment area at the square and a special public area for the citizens.

Ajinkya Puranik

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