Local authorities in India are considering microalgae as an eco-friendly solution to the Tapi river’s water hyacinth problem. The technology, which is also being used in the National Mission for Clean Ganga uses microalgae to enrich the quality of water and deprives the water hyacinth of its nutrients, eventually killing it. The organisms are also nourishment for aquatic life, encouraging water remediation whilst tackling the problem of oxygen content in the water.
Originally conceived from an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the technology is also being used in Muzaffarnagar’s Kali River and involves a simple process in which cultures of microalgae are inserted into the natural sewerage of a river, where the pollutants initially enter the water. The microalgae are released in a controlled environment, ensuring no algal bloom and the removal of pollutants before they enter the river – as well as those that come from upstream.
The innovative process would effectively remove food content from water hyacinth and macro files, preventing further growth whilst simultaneously cleaning and purifying the water. Indeed, the elimination of water hyacinth has been highlighted as a top priority by the Indian government and citizens in Surat, who require over 1,070 MLD of potable water on a daily basis.
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Critics of the technology maintain that the process harms marine life, whilst advocates of the process argue that it increases dissolved oxygen content in the water. Hyacinths, which absorb nitrates and phosphates from polluted water has been highlighted as a major environmental threat in India, with huge dredges of the plant found removed in rivers across the country.
The World Bank estimates that 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices. Further, more than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhoea in India alone. Although India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, its large population has stressed planned water resources and rural areas are left out.
Regardless of improvements to drinking water, many other water sources are contaminated with both bio and chemical pollutants, and over 21% of the country’s diseases are water-related. Furthermore, only 33% of the country has access to traditional sanitation.
India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2050.
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