Clean Tech

Clean water sans dirty hands

Preeti Mehra | Updated on June 16, 2020 Published on June 16, 2020

Project Neer promises to remove solid waste from waterbodies without human intervention

Keshav Vasudeva and Anirudh Bhashyam are school friends who met at a café in the market overlooking the IIT Delhi campus. As chance would have it, they looked out of the window and saw a sight definitely not for sore eyes — a dirty drain clogged with plastic and typical urban waste.

“What can we do to clear this,” the friends wondered aloud. And from that blossomed the idea of designing a low-cost, automatic contraption to capture the waste polluting all water systems — gutters, drains, canals and rivers — without human intervention. That was December 2018 and now, less than two years later, the duo has its river cleaning venture on stream. Project Neer has its machine prototype on test mode at the massive drain in Delhi’s IP Estate where they have been observing it collect 60 to 80 kg of solid waste in an hour.

The two have managed to design and fabricate their two prototypes even as they are still studying. Vasudeva is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. He applied the engineering design and fabrication principles he was exposed to in developing this concept. Anirudh, who will soon complete his degree in Mathematics from Delhi University’s Sri Venkateswara College, had earlier worked on projects related to production of cheap rural electricity and agriculture irrigation technology.

How it works

Last year, the friends were lucky to be able to find a site at Heritage School, Gurugram. “It is here that we built our first prototype in a water tank and later made an experimental video about it for general feedback,” says Vasudeva. After closely monitoring their machine and finetuning it, the two built a second prototype, which today functions close to the ITO bridge.

“Our system uses a simple arrangement of conveyor belts to continuously remove floating and partially submerged solid waste from flowing water channels. It utilises one conveyor belt to lift the waste from the water and another to carry the waste to the banks, where it can be dried and used for different purposes,” explains Bhashyam, adding that specially-designed waste concentrators help funnel the waste from the channel to the conveyor belts while allowing a passage for boats and marine life.

Project Neer has generated some amount of interest in Delhi’s Municipal Corporation as it collaborated in the IP Estate test project. The youngsters want to expand their scope and have their eyes on a larger canal in Delhi’s Najafgarh area.

But Delhi is just the first port of call for Project Neer. It hopes to address the problem arising from solid waste accumulation in rivers across the country. “It impedes the flow of water, leaches harmful chemicals into it, ruins aquatic life both in the rivers and in the oceans where it eventually ends up, and causes countless other problems,” says Vasudeva, in an appeal for crowdfunding for their venture.

“Our objective is to provide a low-cost, effective solution to clean water channels with little to no human intervention. By virtue of this, the system can be made to fit most sites and can play a big role in cleaning up our river systems,” Bhashyam adds. And why should they not dream that going forward their clean-up machine will handle the larger river systems, including the Ganga and Yamuna that are crying out for help?

“At Neer, solving the problem of solid waste pollution in our water bodies is the first step to restoring India’s rivers to their historical glory,” they say with confidence.

Published on June 16, 2020
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