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India-EU technology helping use waste water to boost crop productivity
'Water4Crops', a joint project undertaken by the European Union (EU) and India, offers 'Constructed Wetland', a technology to reuse the wastewater in rural areas for irrigation which would also increase the productivity and quality of crops as compared to freshwater.
On Wednesday, EU Ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski, Minister of State for Science and Technology Y.S. Chowdary and other experts held a review meeting on completion of four years of the Indo-EU funded project worth Euro 9 million.
"We are worried about chemicals in our noodles and bread but not about the microbial contamination in the vegetables. This technology reduce pollutants in wastewater, makes it fit for irrigation and results shown increase in yield of up to 40 percent," Aviraj Dutta, a scientist with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) - the research organisation granted special status by India, told IANS.
The project integrates bio-treated wastewater reuse to support the Green Economy in EU and India.
As per ICRISAT, fields irrigated with wastewater resulted in 40 percent higher yield as compared to those fields irrigated by fresh water. The experiment was performed over chilly plants, eggplant and okra.
The technology is however not new. It became a popular way to treat wastewater for irrigation in North America back in 1980. The technology offered in India is a little updated version that had been experimented in some seven states across India, including eight districts in Karnataka.
"It would also require to raise basic infrastructure such as drainage system in the rural areas, which is widely for now absent," an expert said.
Instead of using chemicals, Constructed Wetland uses layers of gravel, sand and local wetland vegetation like canna, cattail and water lettuce to treat the water. All these ingredients are placed in a pit of typical 300-400 sq meters of area, from which the polluted water flows from one end and treated water flows from the other end and gathers in a small pond like structure.
From a distance it looks like a small nursery of wetland plants.
"It costs about Rs.4- 6 lakh to setup one small plant for constructed wetland in one village," Regional Director ICRISAT Suhas P. Wani told IANS.
Citing examples of Kolkata where fishes are raised in polluted water, Wani said that the treated water could also be used for fishery.
It could utilize low-quality industrial, domestic and municipal wastewater by reducing pollutants like sulphate, phosphate, nitrogen load, pathogen by up to 92 percent.
"The technology resolves three key issues of providing better water for irrigation, creates a sense of security from drought and water scarcity. It also aids health and sanitation," Wani said.
The government now has a major role to play when it comes to apply this technology.
"This initiative is the need of the hour. There is no solution but to save as much water as we could," Minister Chowdary said while quoting the drought situation in Maharashtra and other parts of the country.