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Human hair holds the key to solving water pollution

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

We all have heard of incidents of oil spills devastating oceans and marine life. All efforts at addressing the such malicious accidents have resulted in failure. Big corporates such as British Petroleum and Shell energy have overseen massive oil spills in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

That a practical method of using naturally available waste such as human hair, bird feathers and sawdust to sweep clean the waters off oil evaded everyone’s thoughts is bewildering.

Everyone except Nikhilesh Das, who came up with the idea at the young age of 13.

While studying in the 7th grade in Assam, Nikhilesh discovered a novel way to rid rivers and oceans off murky oil spills.

As a curious young mind Nikhilesh remembered accidental oil leakages in Brahmaputra river which spoiled the harvest of the farmers, and resulted in a wave of farmer suicides.

The simple innovations started coming soon after an exhibition on pollution got him thinking and doing some research on the internet to see how the menace could be handled. However, the results were not satisfying.

“Many existing techniques that people use only create more pollution in the water. I wasn’t convinced that these can be used as sustainable methods to eliminate water pollution and separate oil from water,” he says.

Hair-oil theory

Hair as an anodyne to oil spills emerged after he recollected with much fondness how his mother used to oil his hair. “The oil would stick to my hair and  would just not come off”, says Nikhilesh.

He mixed the hair that he got from a barbershop with motor oil and water, and watched with fascination how a coating of oil would form over the surface of water.

Within 30 seconds of using hair to absorb oil, 90 per cent of the oil would be removed in the first attempt.

hair
Human hair as shield to oil

 

 

Films

The next incident that struck Nikhilesh occurred while watching a documentary film on migratory birds that died due to oil spillage.

The migratory birds would touch the surface of the water to catch fish and the oil would stick to their feathers. This would make them unable to fly, leading to a painful death.

“One line from an article stood out for me: ‘Oil got stuck to their feathers.’ I thought, feathers can also catch oil and can be used,” he says.

After donning the experimental hat, Nikhilesh met with much success. He had found his second ingredient (feathers).

The third revelation came when Nikhilesh was renovating his house. After the carpenter dropped oil on the ground, he saw the sawdust absorb the oil. Within seconds it vanished. And so he got his third ingredient.

bird
Bird feathers block oil

Accolades

For preparing a prototype using the three waste materials, Nikhilesh has won many awards.

The short-listing by the National Innovation Foundation, got him an award from the President in 2009. He also received the INK fellowship in 2011.

He sees potential in the efficacy of the waste materials to clean out oil and wants to work out how it can be further utilized.

“I would like to design a big hairbrush kind of machine, which could be used to clean water bodies. I am not an engineer and I don’t even have the resources or technologies to design a big machine though. I will be glad if someone could help me take the design to the next level,” Nikhilesh says.

On emphasizing the value of imagination, Nikhilesh says, “I would want school authorities and teachers to be more supportive of students who want to innovate. More focus should be given on practical knowledge rather than theoretical knowledge and scoring good marks,” concludes Nikhilesh.

Nikhilesh has also turned his sight upon air pollution and wants to research on how to address issues related to it. Presently, Nikhilesh is looking for potential supporters to help him take his innovation to the market.

Here is a link to the INK talk by Nikhilesh Das; showing his simple innovations.

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Swiss Researchers’ Envirobot Slithers through Waterways to Detect Pollution and Toxins

Envirobot appears as a water snake but is actually a collection of little segments, all doing different jobs

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Envirobot
Envirobot helps in detecting water pollution. Pixabay
  • Envirobot, the latest biomimetic fabrication by Swiss researchers, appears as a water snake
  • Its job when fully developed will be to guard water bodies looking for pollution and toxins
  • Envirobot is better than conventional propeller-driven underwater robots as it is less likely to get in branches and algae when they move around

Switzerland, August 6, 2017: As per the Pacific Institute, more than 2 million tons of a wide range of waste is pumped into the world’s waters each day. Researchers have become great at recognizing it, however not very great at finding the source of pollution. However, Envirobot, the latest biomimetic fabrication by Swiss researchers, provides a solution.

It appears as a water snake but is actually a collection of little segments, all doing different jobs. They are taking it on a test drive around bodies of water in search of toxins and other substances which can harm aquatic animals in order to take control of water pollution.

ALSO READ: Human hair holds the key to solving water pollution

 The segments of Envirobot are identical so that the joint can oscillate in water. The head coordinates the motion of different segments in order to create a serpentine pattern which propels the whole robot. Its job when fully developed will be to guard water bodies on its own looking for pollution and toxins.
It can also send data to computers in real time as it swims. Its tiny chambers get filled with water as the robot swims through water. Envirobot is more efficient and accurate as it can collect water from multiple spots in a lake or river. It will be used as a measure to detect metals as they can harm people and aquatic life.

Instead of having a measurement station somewhere or going out to take a sample and bringing it back to the lab, the robot will actually slither in water bodies and measure a number of water quality parameters in real time. Envirobot is better than conventional propeller-driven underwater robots as it is less likely to get in branches and algae when they move around.

Each segment of the Envirobot is unique so as to enable it to perform all kinds of water tests at the same time. For instance one segment measures very general quality parameters like temperature, conductivity, pH, oxygen level, so as to say whether water quality is good or not. Other segments carry bacteria, fish cells and even tiny water fleas that can react to toxins and insecticides in the water body.

The researchers’ ultimate goal is to create a full-time autonomous pollution sniffing robot and prevention of water pollution. What they are yet to achieve is to enable the Envirobot to by itself locate the source of the pollution. This will help to measure and decide where to go next which is a very challenging project. Given the amount of waste that is being dumped or pumped into the world’s waterways, it is a very worthy goal.

– prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025

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The Popular Recycled Wastewater Treatment Plants Get a Go Signal in India

From toilet to tap, the future of drinking water is here. After Singapore and Orange County USA, India to adopt recycled wastewater treatment system

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Waste water treatment
Wastewater Treatment Plant. Pixabay
  • Delhi to get India’s first ever recycle wastewater treatment plant, after it became significantly popular in Singapore and Orange County
  • Sujala Dhara plant set up by Absolute Water, in collaboration with Delhi Jal Board and SANA
  • Non-potable use of the treatable water to be promoted extensively by Delhi Government

New Delhi, August 3, 2017: The capital has been suffering a water crisis for a while now, it was only a while back that a report warned the residents that 70 percent of the water in the capital was polluted and unfit to drink. After the spike in the industrial pollutants in the Yamuna river forced the Delhi Jal Board to take action by cutting 50 percent of water supply from two major water plants in Delhi.

After the reports were verified, it was evident that most of the water that the locals were consuming was diluted wastewater. There have been many short term preventive measures already been taken but in the long run, people are still unwilling to consume the recycled wastewater, even though half of the consumption currently is polluted by industrial and chemical waste.

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The founder of Third World Center for Water Management said in an interview that, in Singapore, over 50 lakh residents have accepted it as a solution. Dependent on Malaysia for up to 50 percent of its water, Singapore decided that it was better to be self-reliant. With this ‘NEWater treatment plants’, it has not only managed that but also become a hub for advanced water research. A similar effort is also being done on an extensive scale in Orange County Water District in the US.

Delhi Jal Board approves a recyclable water treatment plant for potable and non-potable use Click To Tweet

Rahul Jha of Absolute Water, the water wing of Chemical System Technologies says that “Astronauts do it abroad stations”, Absolute Water develops technology which renders wastewater into potable water. In collaboration with Delhi Jal Board and Social Awareness, Newer Alternatives (SANA) they have established a plant called Sujala Dhara, at the Keshopur Sewage Treatment Plant in July 2015. At a cost of Rs 55 lakh, this plant can produce over 4000 liters of clean water every hour. The plant will be monitored by Delhi Jal Board, while agencies like Central Pollution Control Board have already given it a go.

The wastewater purification process not only reduces the waste discharged into the river bodies but also amounts to 15 percent of raw water remaining after purification, which is rich in nutrients like potassium and nitrogen and can be used as a liquid fertilizer. Even though the people are not yet accepting of this method of purification in India, and the practice won’t be as widely popular as it is in Singapore but the recycled water can be used for domestic needs.

Recycled Wastewater
Future Drinking Water

Work is initiated to supply the plant water to Keshopur Bus Depot for washing vehicles. The water will also be provided to the residence of Delhi Jal Board officials who live close to it, and where work on the dual piping system is proposed. So, two completely separate systems will be used to supply potable and recycled water to the users.

Also Read: These 7 Ayurvedic Herbal Water have Healing Powers

While there isn’t much heat on the aggressive consumption of recycled wastewater for drinking, but the Delhi’s Master Plan 2021 is already underway to promote extensive use of treated water for non-potable purposes.

Prepared by Nivedita Motwani. Twitter @Mind_Makeup


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India Among 5 Countries Cultivating Raw Wastewater For Irrigation

According to study, farmers' use of wastewater is most prevalent in regions where there are significant wastewater generation and water pollution

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Influent raw wastewater in glass jar. Wikimedia
  • The global use of untreated wastewater from cities to irrigate crops downstream is 50 per cent more widespread than previously thought
  • The study relies on advanced modelling methods to provide a comprehensive estimate of the global extent to which farmers use urban wastewater on irrigated cropland
  • Results showed that 65 percent of all irrigated areas are within 40 km downstream of urban centres and are affected by wastewater flows to a large degree

Colombo, July 06, 2017: India and four other countries – China, Pakistan, Mexico and Iran — account for the most cropland in the world irrigated by dirty wastewater, putting millions of lives at serious health risks, new research have found.

The global use of untreated wastewater from cities to irrigate crops downstream is 50 per cent more widespread than previously thought, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The study relies on advanced modelling methods to provide a comprehensive estimate of the global extent to which farmers use urban wastewater on irrigated cropland.

Also Read: Exclusive: Angry Farmers and Distressed Leaders

Researchers analysed data with geographic information systems (GIS).

According to the study, farmers’ use of wastewater is most prevalent in regions where there are significant wastewater generation and water pollution.

In these circumstances, and where safer water is in short supply, wastewater offers a consistent and reliable means of irrigating fields, including high-value crops, such as vegetables, which often require more water than staple foods.

Where raw wastewater is available, farmers may tend to prefer it because of its high concentrations of nutrients, which can lessen the need to apply purchased fertilisers.

In most cases, however, farmers’ use of this water is motivated by basic needs. They simply do not have alternatives, the study showed.

“The de facto reuse of urban wastewater is understandable, given the combination of increasing water pollution and declining freshwater availability, as seen in many developing countries,” said the lead author of the study Anne Thebo from the University of California, Berkeley in the US.

“As long as investment in wastewater treatment lags far behind population growth, large numbers of consumers eating raw produce will face heightened threats to food safety,” Thebo said.

Results showed that 65 percent of all irrigated areas are within 40 km downstream of urban centres and are affected by wastewater flows to a large degree.

Of the total area of 35.9 million hectares, 29.3 million hectares are in countries with very limited wastewater treatment, exposing 885 million urban consumers as well as farmers and food vendors to serious health risks.

Five countries — China, India, Pakistan, Mexico and Iran — account for most of this cropland, the findings showed.

These new findings supersede a widely cited 2004 estimate, based on case studies in some 70 countries and expert opinion, which had put the cropland area irrigated with wastewater at a maximum of 20 million hectares.

“Gaining a better grasp of where, why and to what extent farmers use wastewater for irrigation is an important step toward addressing the problem,” said second author Pay Drechsel of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Battaramulla, Sri Lanka.

“We hope this new study will focus the attention of policymakers and sanitation experts on the need to fulfill Sustainable Development Goal 6, particularly target 3, which calls for halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing recycling and safe water reuse,” Drechsel added. (IANS)