Making wastewater safe for agricultural use through constructed wetlands


Addressing the issue of using untreated domestic and industrial wastewater for agriculture, a team under the Water4Crops project has developed and piloted ‘constructed wetlands’ as a decentralized business model to treat wastewater and render it safe for agricultural use.

Use of untreated water results in degraded soils due to accumulation of salts and heavy metals thus making them unfit for agriculture and also posing a serious health hazard to consumers.

Currently in India, industrial wastewater from SAB Miller India (brewery wastewater), Ugar Sugar Mills, KCP Sugar Mills and the fruit processing plant of Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd (JISL) are being treated and made safe for agricultural use. In addition to wetlands treatment, the project is also undertaking high transpiration plan systems (HTPS) for disposing treated industrial wastewater and at the same time using it for biomass production. A number of plant species like cattail, Napier grass, pearl millet, goatweed, water hyacinth and water lily are being evaluated for their role in treating domestic wastewater.

To promote the safe reuse of wastewater (domestic as well as industrial) in agriculture, an ICRISAT-led consortium of 11 partners in India and a mirror image project in Europe with 22 partners are implementing the project – Integrating bio-treated wastewater reuse with enhanced water use efficiency to support the green economy in EU and India (Water4Crops program).

At a recent project review and planning meet all components of the project were discussed. During the discussion, the need to enhance collaboration between EU and India in the area of constructed wetlands was highlighted. Dr Antonio Lopez, Coordinator, EU and Dr Suhas P Wani, Coordinator, India, urged the European and Indian partners to identify areas of collaboration for preparing joint papers emerging from the mirror image project. The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, is also looking for exchange of technologies from the European side in the area of wastewater treatment.

The meeting, co-chaired by Dr Lopez and Dr Wani, was held at Montpellier, France, during the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage Conference held on 15-16 October. The meeting was attended by partners from Europe and six partners from India – ICRISAT, SAB Miller India Ltd, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Nagpur, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) Dharwad, UAS Bengaluru and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

Decentralized wastewater treatment as a business model is being piloted by an ICRISAT-led consortium in watershed projects implemented in 13 model watersheds supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Development (Department of Land Resources). In addition, there are eight pilot sites under Bhoosamruddhi project in Karnataka and seven watersheds under corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The ICRISAT team comprised Dr SP Wani, Dr Aviraj Datta and Dr Amey Tilak.

Investor: Department of Biotechnology, Government of India

CGIAR Research Program: Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)

Partners: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), UAS Dharwad, UAS Bengaluru, MSSRF, NEERI, Euro India Research Centre (EIRC), JISL, SABMiller, Ugar Sugar, PRAJ Matrix, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and ION Exchange from India and 22 partners from EU.

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