With an aim to bring dynamic changes in the way sewage is treated in India, top Indian and Dutch institutions have undertaken a joint venture in New Delhi. The project site is located at the national capital’s Barapullah drain that flows under the flyover. ‘LOTUS HR — Local Treatment of Urban Sewage Streams for Healthy Reuse’ is funded by the Dutch science agency Department of Biotechnology and NWO. Scholars from IIT-Delhi, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have joined the project.
The central government had said that project aims at producing “clean water that can be reused… while simultaneously recovering nutrients and energy from the urban wastewater, thus converting drains into profitable mines”. Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan and the then Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Bert Koenders laid down the foundation stone for the project.
Assistant professor, IIT-Delhi, Shaikh Z Ahammad, who is leading the Indian team, said, “Things that you use every day contribute to this, and its effects are not very apparent. There are around 3 lakh chemical compounds that fall under this category.” This LOTUS HR tests technologies that target, apart from conventional contaminant parameters like biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), pH value, etc., “contaminants of emerging concern” such as pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), the effects of which were until recently only poorly understood.
“A UK study showed oestrogen in rivers that could have come from birth control pills, could have contributed to the feminisation of certain aquatic animals,” Prof Ahammad was quoted as saying by IE. According to reports, India does not currently have protocols and treatment standards for emerging contaminants.
An on-site lab and pilot plant has been set up on a 200 sq m plot by the drain, close to the Sun Dial park. “This is one of the most polluted canals, containing waste from both urban and rural areas, and industrial effluents as well,” Dr Pushap Chawla, senior project coordinator, IIT-Delhi, said. “We believe that if we can successfully treat the water here, we can replicate it according to need in other areas too.”
“We have chosen bio-mechanical methods to keep the cost down, keeping in mind Indian requirements,” said Prof Ahammad adding, “Much of the sewage in India is untreated. The new systems will be modular, and once tested and proven, can be put in place as a cheaper alternative to retrofitting and upgrading existing systems.”