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Desalination tech can produce water at 25 paise a litre: Sibal

Our Bureau

New Delhi , July 22

EVEN as the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, has proposed the setting up of the country's first large desalination plant near Chennai with a 300 million litres per day (lpd) capacity - in the Union Budget - the Government today said that it has the technology for such a facility which can produce potable water for as less as 25 paise per litre.

Speaking to newspersons, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Kapil Sibal, said that the Department of Ocean Development (DoD) was in the process of setting up a one lakh lpd capacity desalination plant at Kavaratti, Lakshadweep.

This would basically be an upscaled version of the 5,000 lpd pilot project set up at the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in Chennai.

This new plant will employ "thermal gradient" technology as opposed to the conventional reverse osmosis (RO) method of desalination.

The DoD Secretary, Dr Harsh K. Gupta, said that thermal gradient technology essentially exploits the temperature difference existing at various depths of the ocean, ranging from 26-27 degree Celsius on the surface to 13-14 degrees down 200 metres.

"We will use this thermal gradient to produce fresh water through flash evaporation," he added.

The Mumbai-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), too, has established expertise in erecting commercial desalination plants using RO technology, with an existing plant at Kalpakkam, near Chennai, producing about 18 lakh lpd per day.

"There is indigenous technology available for producing drinking water from the sea at much less than what you pay for bottled water," Mr Sibal said.

He added that the Government was also working at increasing India's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by about 1-1.5 million sq km over and above the existing 2.02 million sq km.

Currently, the territorial waters of the country extend to 12 nautical miles from the coastline while the EEZ stretches up to 200 nautical miles.

It is on this ocean area, covering 2.02 million sq km, that the country has exclusive rights for exploitation of all marine resources.

"We are now laying claim to an additional EEZ area of 1-1.5 million sq km under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Our contention is that a large chunk of India's landmass has gone into the ocean. We have data showing the presence of one km deep sediments extending much beyond our current EEZ limits," Mr Sibal said.

The DoD will be analysing the data it has collected over the next 6-8 months after which the Government can go ahead with a formal claim, which the Minister said would be a "political decision".

He added that in the event of the country successfully claiming the additional EEZ area of 1-1.5 million square km, the country's exclusive ocean territory will be around 3.5 million sq km, even exceeding the landmass of 3.28 million sq km.

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