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Cotton sari water filter: An indigenous water purifier for rural India that costs only Rs 1500

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By Shilpika Srivastava

Talking about facts, there are 13% of inhabitants in Delhi who do not get water supply every day. If India’s national capital is dealing with such water crisis, think how acute the problem is in the rural areas.

Millions of people are still compelled to drink contaminated water leading to a series of health issues.  In rural India, thousands of infants die each year only due to diarrheal diseases, which are both preventable and treatable. According to World Health Organization (WHO), diarrheal diseases are the second leading cause of death in children under five years old.

The problem is so critical that even if we achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population who do not have access to drinking water and sanitation by 2015, there will still be 244 million people in rural India and 90 million in urban India with no access to safe and sustainable water supply.

Keeping in mind the high cost of water purifiers available in the market and unavailability of electricity in rural areas, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), an NGO working in rural Maharashtra, has developed a unique and low cost solar water purifier (SWP) for rural households. The best part is that it does not even require electricity or wastes precious water unlike the Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems.

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“It took us about three years to develop SWP and total cost was Rs 20 lakhs. However, the major cost was spent on the staff,” told Anil K Rajvanshi, Director and Hon. Secretary, NARI, to NewsGram.

“We live in rural area and we have observed that because of poor drinking water there are a lot of diarrhea related health issues. More so with children and so we thought of providing a solution to it and hence the solar water purifier,” added Rajvanshi.

The low cost water purifier consists of four tubular solar water heaters attached to a stainless steel manifold. Unclean water is then filled in SWP after being filtered with a four-layered cotton cloth and then it is heated up in the stagnation mode by solar energy to make the water potable.

How it works?

SWP was developed in two steps essentially. The first step required a four-layered cotton sari cloth to filter unclean water. NARI explained that the tests done in its labs showed that such filtered water heated either to 60C for 15 minutes or 45C for 3 hours suspends all the coliform bacteria.

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Therefore, in the second step, the filtered water was then heated using the tubular solar collectors in the SWP in order to achieve a temperature of 60C for 15 minutes to kill the existing coliforms.

SWP has been tested extensively by NARI and it was found that even on a completely cloudy and rainy day, water is heated to high enough temperature to make water clean and drinkable.

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How much it cost?

The main goal of NARI was to create a water purifier that could be easily afforded by the rural inhabitants.

SWP costs about Rs. 1,500 ($25), and is so simple that any small rural workshop can manufacture it.

The fact that should be highly appreciated is that NARI has not patented this technology since it believes that the purifier should be made freely available for rural population.

“I have always believed that availability of clean drinking water to every citizen is a birth right and every government of the day should provide it. You may be able to live without food for 5-10 days but cannot live without water for more than 5 hours. Clean drinking water is extremely important for health. The difference between poverty and affluence is the availability of clean drinking water,” said Rajvanshi.

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Copyright 2015 NewsGram

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Researchers Look for Alternatives To Chemical Fertilizers for a Cleaner Environment

Too many nutrients in the water leads to poor water quality by causing hazardous algal blooms.

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Fertilizers
A farming woman spreads fertilizer in a paddy field. Flickr

Fertilizer is made of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Chemical fertilizers require huge amounts of energy to produce. But there are other, natural and more readily available sources.

The University of Michigan, with support from the National Science Foundation, is working at making our water cleaner, and our agriculture more sustainable, by capturing one of those sources, rather than flushing it down the toilet.

On a hot summer afternoon near Brattleboro, Vermont, farmer Dean Hamilton has fired up his tractor and is fertilizing his hay field — with human urine.

It takes a bit of time to get used to, says environmental engineer Nancy Love.

“I’ve been surprised at how many people actually get beyond the giggle factor pretty quickly,” she said, “and are willing to listen.”

Fine-tuning the recycling

Rich Earth Institute, a nonprofit, is working with Love and her team. Abraham Noe-Hays says they are fine-tuning new methods to recycle urine into fertilizer.

“There’s a great quote by Buckminster Fuller about how pollution is nothing but the resources that we’re not harvesting, and that we allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value,” he said.

Harvesting the resource of urine — which is, after all, full of the same nutrients as chemical fertilizer — will fix two problems at once: eliminate waste and create a natural fertilizer.

The Rich Earth Institute has been using urine as fertilizer since 2012. Kim Nace says they collect about 26,000 liters a year, thanks to a loyal group of dedicated donors.

“We now have people who have some source-separating toilets in their homes. We also have people who have 55 gallon (200-liter) barrels where they collect and then we transport to our farms, and we’ve also got a large urine depot,” Nace said.

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Fertilizers. Wikimedia Commons

They pasteurize the urine to kill any microbes, and then it is applied directly onto hay fields like Hamilton’s.

Next level of project

Now that they’ve partnered with the University of Michigan, Love says they’re looking to take their project to the next level.

“There are three things we really are trying to do with the urine in this kind of next phase. We’re trying to concentrate it. We’re trying to apply technologies to reduce odor, and we’re trying to deal with trace contaminants like the pharmaceuticals,” she said.

Dealing with pharmaceuticals is an important issue. Heat urine kills germs but has no effect on chemicals like drugs that pass through our bodies.

“We know pharmaceuticals are a problem for aquatic organisms and water systems,” Love said. “It’s debatable about the impact on human health at very, very low levels. Independent of that, I think most people would prefer that they not be in their food.”

Fertilizers
Farmer Scott Halpin is facing another year of high prices for seed and fertilizer, and low prices for the corn and soybeans his family is planting on farmland outside Morris, Illinois.

21st century infrastructure

For Love, this is all about redesigning our wastewater infrastructure for the 21st century. Too many nutrients in the water leads to poor water quality by causing hazardous algal blooms.

“Our water emissions are going into very sensitive water bodies that are vulnerable to these nutrient loads,” she said. “We need to change that dynamic. And if we can capture them and put them to a beneficial use, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Also Read: Common Plastic Chemical May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Their efforts could make agriculture greener and our waterways cleaner. (VOA)