The safe reuse of wastewater for agricultural purposes is showing higher crop yields and reducing the amount of pollutants in wastewater by 30-92%. The reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate fields has shown increased yields of up to 40% in vegetables such as okra, brinjal and chilly as compared to those irrigated by fresh water. These results have been achieved under the European Union and Government of India funded project Water4Crops project.
These results were shared by EU and Indian government at the recent three-day review and planning meeting, titled Integrating Bio-treated Wastewater Reuse with Enhanced Water Use Efficiency to Support the Green Economy in EU and India.
Water4Crops is one of the largest EU-India collaborative projects. Through its 7th Framework Program, the European Commission in 2012 supported the four-year Water4Crops-EU project with a EUR 6 million funding. In the same year, the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India provided EUR 3 million for a twin project, Water4Crops-INDIA.
Mr YS Chowdary, Minister of State, Ministry of Science & Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, highlighted the importance of treated wastewater for addressing the issues of sanitation and health in rural areas as well as meeting the demand of scarce water resources for agriculture to improve the livelihoods.
H.E. Tomasz Kozlowski, the Ambassador of the European Union to India, said, “The EU and India have similar objectives in the area of research policies – in particular a focus on innovation and on common societal challenges such as health, water and energy. Water is clearly a worldwide challenge and therefore its management requires new approaches and technologies. This is an area where the EU has significant experience and we are happy to work together with India. This project is a good example of how top-level research organizations from several European countries have joined forces with their counterparts in India to develop concrete solutions that benefit both sides. We continue this partnership with India through the Water Forum.”
These results have great potential to be included in Swatch Bharat (Clean India) Mission in reducing pollution and overcoming health hazards by ensuring the safe disposal of wastewater in agriculture.
“We are delighted that the European Commission’s Framework Program 7 (FP7) and the Department of Biotechnology initiative, have promoted the sharing of research and technologies among participating consortia in India and Europe for the benefit of the common people. We believe that working together globally will provide implementable solutions to the challenges that India faces,” said Mr Vijay Raghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.
The EU Consortium includes 21 partners from eight countries and an Indian consortium of 11 research and development partners led by the ICRISAT.
“A bilateral project like Water4Crops in the area of wastewater treatment has strengthened the collaboration between partners from India and EU. This has also led to the development of technologies and shared knowledge across the regions,” said Dr Antonio Lopez, Project Coordinator, Water4Crops, Europe.
Dr Suhas P Wani, Project Leader and Director, Asia Region, ICRISAT said, “This technology of treated domestic wastewater is finding acceptance amongst the rural people and has good potential to scale-up in the country to address the issues of health and sanitation in rural areas as well as meeting the water demand for agriculture.”
The Indian consortium partners have demonstrated the use of constructed wetlands as decentralized wastewater treatment systems for both industrial and municipal wastewater. At the SABMiller factory in Sangareddy, Telangana, and KCP Sugar and Industries Corporation Ltd in Lakshmipuram, Andhra Pradesh, wetlands were constructed to treat the effluent coming from effluent treatment plants. Similarly, constructed wetlands were used to effectively treat municipal wastewater at multiple locations in the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.
Under the project work, many wetland plant species, such as Canna indica, lemon grass (Cymbopogon), napier (Pennisetum perpureum X Pennisetum americarnum), para grass (Urochloa mutica), typha (Typha latifolia), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and a weed species Agaratum conyzoides, have been identified for purifying the wastewater. They will also be helpful in reducing the nutrient load in the free-water-surface and sub-surface constructed wetlands.
Based on the pilot sites at ICRISAT-India and other locations, a total of 28 watershed sites are now supported by various corporates under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects as well as the Government of Karnataka’s Bhoo Samrudhi program and Andhra Pradesh Primary Sector Mission (APPSM) Rythu Kosam, where a Decentralized Wastewater Treatment (DWT) approach is being implemented and popularized.