IISc ties-up with Scottish institute for low-cost wastewater treatment system

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on November 30, 2018

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have collaborated with a consortium of scientists led by the James Hutton Institute, University of Glasgow, and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), on a project funded by the Scottish government to deliver a low-cost, decentralised wastewater treatment system.

A pilot facility has been set up at the Berambadi Primary School in the Chamarajanagar district in Karnataka. It was inaugurated on Wednesday by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said an IISc press release.

Swinney said it was Scotland’s duty to share its expertise and experience in the area of wastewater treatment with the wider world.

Rachel Helliwell, Project Coordinator and a senior research scientist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, said the initiative, which aims to improve public sanitation and environmental health in rural India, draws on the excellence of scientists from both Scotland and India.

Lakshminarayana Rao, lead researcher from IISc, explained the choice of a rural primary school to house the plant: “Rural schools have a mid-day meal scheme. There’s a lot of wastewater coming from the kitchen and handwash. This is a low-hanging fruit because this water can be recycled to be used in toilets.”

“Most wastewater we generate is called grey water (that does not originate in toilets). By contrast, wastewater which contains faeces and urine, and therefore pathogens, is termed black water.”

To recover grey water, the Berambadi project uses, among other methods, a plasma technology developed by Rao’s team. “We’re using a component of plasma to generate ozone which disinfects the water,” he elaborated.

On the other hand, black water is treated before it is discharged by a multi-step anaerobic digestion process developed by Scottish water scientists. This ensures that neither the groundwater nor the river downstream is contaminated.

The project also has a rainwater harvesting system which collects about 60,000 litres of water during the rainy season for use by the school. In addition, it has an incinerator to help dispose sanitary napkins. The entire system — as well as lighting for the school — is powered by solar energy, which Rao said makes it a “stand-alone, grid-independent system.”

Rao believes that this modular system can be replicated as well as scaled up. He says that these decentralised plants can also be built in urban settings like apartment complexes and educational institutions, especially those with hostels.

According to him, by merely combining a grey water recovery system with a rainwater harvesting plant, the use of fresh water – which he describes as a luxury for a country like India — can go down by as much as 40 per cent.

Published on November 30, 2018

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