Ecological Water Treatment and Sanitation in a Crisis Situation
Dr Uday Bhawalkar*
Director: Bhawalkar Ecological Research Institute, Pune – 411 009
Ms Sarita Bhawalkar
Research Assistant: Bhawalkar Ecological Research Institute, Pune – 411 009
*Author for correspondence, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Paper presented at 'National Conference on Cost-effective Sanitation’, held at India Habitat Centre,
New Delhi, June 28-30, 2010)
Conventional techniques, mostly using chemical approach for water treatment and sanitation/health, get overwhelmed during crisis situations such as cyclones, floods, earthquakes, fires, epidemics and terrorist attacks.
This paper presents the root cause of these natural and man-made calamities and also develops ecological approach to water treatment, sanitation and health.
This view evolved out of 36 years of research at Bhawalkar Ecological Research Institute (BERI), Pune in active ‘collaboration with nature’. We can learn a lot from 4.6 billion years of evolutionary experience of nature on the earth. Life evolved from highest pollution to gradually reducing pollution. Man is the latest arrival on the earth and can tolerate very low band of pollution.
Land plants provide us with mechanisms that can help us convert ‘pollution into resources’. Odor, pathogens, pests and other unpleasant acts of nature are indicators of spillage of resources by man. This is the basis of ecological techniques of water treatment, sanitation and crisis management. Use of BIOSANITIZER Ecochips makes this simple, sustainable and cost-effective.
The paper also presents a case study of water treatment, sanitation and health management in a flood situation, such as that during Mumbai deluge of July 26, 2005.
Conventional techniques of water treatment and sanitation/health get overwhelmed during a crisis situation. Hence there is an urgent need to develop more powerful methods that are simple to use, cost-effective and sustainable.
Conventional methods of water treatment and sanitation have following limitations:
- Separation and disposal of pollutant: This simply transfers the problem from one place to another, hence is not ecologically sound and sustainable.
- Suppression of signals of pollution: This is like stopping the fire alarm without engaging in fire fighting.
- Use of chemicals; these are harmful if used to suppress the signals.
- Use of scarce electricity that also has severe environmental impact.
- Use of trained manpower that may not be available in rural area.
- High cost of installation and operation
- Hence not accessible to billions of poor people around the world.
This paper discusses how an eco-friendly technique of using BIOSANITIZER Ecochip was developed and demonstrated to tackle a major crisis that was created after the Mumbai deluge on July 26, 2005.
Mother Earth has about 4.6 billion years of evolutionary experience. Life evolved on this earth by gradually reducing high band pollution to lower bands. Man is the latest life form and hence can tolerate lowest band of pollution. We can thus ‘learn from Nature’ how to manage diverse bands of pollution, using natural mechanisms tested over millennia.
Bhawalkar Ecological Research Institute (BERI), Pune (India) has dedicated 36 years to learn from nature, using the modern branches of ecology and ecological engineering.
Following ground rules, distilled from ecological sciences, facilitated ‘learning from Nature’ (Bhawalkar, 1997):
- Nature is well designed.
- Each organism has a role. Its design is to facilitate this role.
- Crisis indicators (pathogens and pests, for example) have short life and high growth rate. This feature allows them to increase their population during the crisis and keep a low population otherwise.
- Crisis indications are unpleasant, only to act as fire alarm.
- Waste of resources is the prime cause of crisis.
- Natural calamities such as cyclones, wild fires, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts and epidemics are due to waste of resources by man. Hence these are no longer natural calamities; and they are increasing due to human activities.
- It is our job to read the crisis signals and stop the leakage of resources. This will also support the human population, in a sustainable manner.
Application of ecological ground rules presented above, helped develop clarity about ecological water treatment, sanitation and health:
Man has a spare kidney implying that kidney has a critical role. Only when we overload both the kidneys with inorganic pollutants, that other organs get stressed and show the disease (signal).
Inorganic pollutants are the most hazardous and can enter human body through polluted food, water and air. Air has NOx that enters our body through breathing and forms nitrates in blood. Source of NOx is burning of fossil fuels. This causes acid rain with nitrates. Food and water can also get nitrates due to use of chemical fertilizers.
Nitrates are the key inorganic pollutants. Other inorganic and organic pollutants get easily remediated at low nitrates. Low nitrate systems have higher capability of ecological remediation of diverse pollutants.
Though the WHO limit for nitrates is 45 ppm, this is too high for the tropical warm region that favors activity of plants and pathogens/pests. Proper limit should be low enough that allows no mosquito breeding during storage.
Water is used as a ‘cleaning agent’ because it can dissolve and flush off the nitrates (and other hazardous inorganics such as heavy metals) when we drink water or use water to clean our body externally.
Food is washed and cooked; this involves removal of inorganic pollutants, among other objectives.
Rain scrubs the inorganic air pollutants (NOx and SOx) and we feel fresh after the rain.
We also feel fresh after a nice drink of water or a good bath. Removal of inorganic pollutants increases our brainpower. In fact, we feel thirsty if there is sudden load on our brain when we are in a crisis situation. We also feel thirsty when we consume food that has inorganic pollutants such as nitrates, heavy metals, etc.
Overload of nitrates and heavy metals lower human creativity. Further overload causes bad habits and human vices such as greed, crime, etc.
Cleaning of utensils and clothing should involve reduction of inorganics.
Water can clean the job of cleaning only to the extent water is clean from inorganic pollutants aspect. Hence low inorganics should be the prime parameter for water treatment. Such water also tastes sweet and has refreshing effect human body.
Inorganic minerals need to be distinguished from harmful inorganics. Minerals are essential and give extra taste to water. Coconut water, for example, is nourishing in spite of its high TDS of about 3,000 ppm. Excessive removal of minerals (and other inorganics) through the RO process can be harmful because the ion-hungry water can rob the body minerals.
Water with low nitrates is ideal for farming because it triggers earthworms in the soil which creates condition for organic farming that produces healthy food with essential minerals but with lower inorganic pollutants such as sodium, nitrates, heavy metals, etc.
Consumption of polluted food, water and air leads to mind pollution in humans.
Each animal needs certain band of pollution to survive. Man needs the cleanest band. Clean means absence of inorganic pollution.
Body health problems are just the alarms of pollution. They are also mechanism of cleaning the body of inorganic contamination.
Odor, pathogens and pests are natural mechanisms to detect, indicate and remediate inorganic pollution. These are unpleasant only to warn us about the pollution.
Inorganics from soil or water and carbon dioxide in air are two pollution streams that are used by land plants, to produce valuable organics and oxygen. This is a desired mechanism that can prevent sanitation alarms such as odor, pathogens and pests. Nature evolved its plant kingdom from water to land about 600 million years ago, developing higher biodiversity on land.
Ecosanitation, thus, involves taking human residues to the soil, to feed the plants.
Ecological treatment of water or wastewater should involve planted soil filter (ecofilter), not chemicals or use of electricity.
Health is best achieved when there is organic balance between man and plant kingdom because plants use human residues for their nutrition. Plants also produce all our needs, in a sustainable manner.
While nitrates are the key pollutant, its harmful effect can be remediated by availability of food. The ratio nitrates/food thus needs to be kept low in water, food, soil, and also in garbage and sewage.
Large pests appear at medium ratio of nitrates/food, their visibility gives us a message that sanitation is in band of 95-98%. These pests do cause some nuisance, only to indicate us that there is some scope to improve the sanitation. Pests run and also fly at lower sanitation levels (large ratio of nitrates/food). These pests also try to enhance sanitation by consuming high nitrate food.
At relatively low ratio of nitrates/food come the singing mosquitoes that do not bite us. At the ratio further gets lowered; we get night biting ordinary mosquitoes. Malaria and dengue mosquitoes are day-biting mosquitoes that come at still lower ratio. It is observed that some municipal tap water may have nitrates lower than 45 ppm (the limit set by WHO), yet breed dengue mosquito, in warm region. Nitrate limit should be low enough in the warm region. In fact many natural sources of water have nitrates less than 1 ppm because of natural soil filtration.
Pathogens are microscopic pests that come at higher levels of nitrates/food ratio. First come fungal, then bacterial and finally viral mechanisms come at the highest level of nitrates/food ratio.
This understanding of pathogens and pests allows us to reduce these fire fighters by reducing the nitrates/food ratio, instead of conventional approach of using poisons or attempts to kill these useful organisms using heat and other mechanisms such as irradiation, heavy metals, etc.
Other inorganic pollutants (such as heavy metals, sodium, sulphates, etc.) and toxic organics act similar to nitrates. Hence these pollutants should be considered as concentrated form of nitrates.
It is ecologically unsound practice to clean water using inorganic or organic chemicals. Mosquito breeding will take place if chemically cleaned water is stored for more than a week. Another simple way to test water quality within 24 hours, without any laboratory equipment, is to see whether a shining copper wire is able to maintain its shine when kept submerged in the water sample. Most of the water samples that are considered ‘clean’ will show copper corrosion within 24 hours. This test assures us that water has no chemical or biological pollutants in it, which can affect human homeostasis.
Aim of solid wastes treatment should be reduction of nitrates/food ratio. Aim of sewage treatment also should be same. Paradoxically, conventional methods increase this ratio. Food is destroyed during the treatment, producing carbon dioxide. Destroying the food shuts off signals and we get false feeling of sanitizing of garbage or sewage. Actually, the compost (produced by heat producing bacteria and fungi) and treated sewage is clean only to eyes and nose, it is better medium for growth of pathogens and malaria/dengue mosquitoes.
Best way to correct the nitrates/food ratio is to involve plant activity. This converts nitrates, carbon dioxide and warmth into food and oxygen. It converts 3 pollutants streams into 2 resource streams.
Conventional way of sanitation is to use the reaction that converts food, nitrates and oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas and heat. This reaction converts 3 resource streams into 3 pollutant streams.
Water is not clean or polluted. It is either ‘dead’ or ‘living’. Living water, also known as sacred or healing water, is there at few places on the earth, for example the Ganga Jal (water of sacred Ganga), Zam Zam water at Mecca (Saudi Arabia) or ‘Holy Water’ from Lourdes in France.
Living or healing water resists contamination; it is reputed to wash sins of people without getting dirty. This is the secret of holy kumbh where millions of people crowd to take a dip on few special days. Kolkata water is drawn from Ganga (Hoogly) and hence Kolkata sewage becomes a resource for farming and aquaculture without any man designed sewage treatment.
BIOSANITIZER Ecochips: Nature’s Own Technology
Use of BIOSANITIZER Ecochips is a simple, convenient, cost-effective way to keep our water clean so that it becomes ‘healing’ and assimilates pollution (sins) and in fact, converts pollution into healing resources.
If BIOSANITIZER Ecochips are installed in well, borewell or water supply tanks, we get sustainable clean water supply. Sewage, then also gets healed by itself, like Kolkata
sewage. If the healing water is sprinkled on stinking garbage, we get instant stabilization, without any production of greenhouse gases.
100 mg of BIOSANITIZER Ecochip has the capacity of an acre of natural forest ecosystem, to assimilate inorganic pollutants and CO2 and produce food molecules and active oxygen (which cracks all the organic toxins and converts them into food molecules).
BIOSANITIZER’S healing reaction has supported material and spiritual prosperity of India over the past 10,000 years or more. The reaction has gradually died out over the past 1,000 years, more during the past 100 years, due to use of fossil fuels. Countries in the warm region suffered more than those in the cold region. This is why prosperity shifted to the cold region during the recent millennium.
We can use the BIOSANITIZER Ecochips to clean our water supplies and fuel tanks, and get healing water and fuels.
Salient features of BIOSANITIZER Ecochip technology:
- No recurring expenses at steady load of pollution.
- Healing reaction sustains over long time and distance, along the river, to the sea.
- Cleans water, bottom sludge and whole basin ecology.
- Builds cost-saving prosperous agriculture and sustainable society.
- Reduces bad habits, crime among the people and builds creative society.
- Produces payback of one year, from generated resources, using pollution (of water and air) as free raw materials.
- Requires no use of machinery, electricity, chemicals or manpower.
- Does not produce greenhouse gases, in fact traps the greenhouse gases to create food so as to increase the ratio of food/toxicity.
- Operates by itself, using laws of Nature.
- Time-tested healing reaction for 10,000 years, thus termed a discovery.
- Compact BIOSANITIZER Ecochip was invented ‘in collaboration with Nature’.
Investment (for BIOSANITIZER) Guidelines:
- Rs 40 lakh per MLD flow of water supply and sewage
- Rs 1 lakh per acre of pond/lake
- Rs 10,000/- per HP of the pump (on well/borewell or a cooling tower).
- These figures are only indicative, can vary due to local conditions, and are high for small projects, due to overheads.
Field-scale Experience over the past 24 years, in 12 countries:
- Organic farming by treatment of water used for irrigation
- Urban gardening using natural biodegradable portion of garbage
- Treatment of raw water, without use of electricity or chemicals
- Sewage treatment and recycling in decentralized as well as large scale projects
- Treatment of fossil fuels, so as to reduce their pollution potential
- Treatment of industrial wastes (solid, liquid or gaseous), including the hazardous wastes
- Treatment of garbage and bio-medical wastes, without producing leachate and greenhouse gases
- Treatment of brackish/saline ground or surface water, to produce fuel / fertilizer / food.
BIOSANITIZER for Crisis Management: Case Study of Mumbai Deluge
The utility of the BIOSANITIZER technology was well demonstrated after the July 26, 2005 deluge in Mumbai, when it rained about 1000 mm during a 6 hour period. The BIOSANITIZER healing reaction had been initiated in Powai lake in 1998 to make visible impact by reducing the water hyacinth weed infestation.
The focus of rain clouds was the basin of unheard Mithi river, originating from Vihar and Powai lakes. The waters from the lakes, containing BIOSANITIZER’s healing reaction, overflowed into the flooded Mithi river and spread over the city. Millions of people had to wade through water, to reach their homes after the transport systems collapsed. About 16,000 animals died during the deluge. In the following days, accumulated garbage heaps and dead carcasses created severe sanitation hazard in Mumbai.
A joint project of Green Cross Society of Mumbai, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Indian Express newspaper conducted special spraying operations of a bio-spray by combining BIOSANITIZER and a 100 ppm solution of calcium nitrate on garbage heaps in K West ward. The results of ecosanitation achieved were dramatic, as seen by control of odor, pathogens and calming and reduction of number of pests.
Nearby Mumbai, in Kora Kendra in Sasunavghar in the jurisdiction of Vasai Municipal Council, a crisis developed with the dumping of 350 rotting buffalo carcasses. By August 2005, dogs, rats, crows, egrets, flies and mosquitoes started breeding in great number and demonstrated violent behavior.
As Mumbai region had experienced plague for 40 years in the beginning of the last century during the October months and recently Surat in Gujarat state also experienced an outbreak of plague in 1994 also during October, there was deep concern of similar conditions being created to support an outbreak of plague.
In order to prevent this possibility, the BIOSANITIZER operation was extended to heal the ecological crisis created by the rotting animal carcasses in Vasai whose stink travelled more than 25 km away.
BIOSANITIZER was introduced into the stagnant water pools. It was also found that polluted water ponds started generating ripples of oxygen production, within a few minutes of application of BIOSANITIZER ecochips into the pond.
The healthy gases produced healthy growth of food crops in the region, mosquitoes were reduced and the pond water started going down. Nature allows higher percolation rate as soon as the water quality improves. The neighboring well that was heavily polluted soon started producing drinkable water.
The flooding of Mumbai had no negative impact on health of 10 million population of Mumbai city. This was because of the BIOSANITIZER that was used in the Powai lake and the lake water was overflowing into the Mithi river. In fact, people rendered voluntary help to the community and the city could recover within a few days. Similar deluge that took place because of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (USA), within a few weeks, needed much longer recovery period. People there also exhibited anti-social behavior by looting the shops, instead of helping each other. This shows how healthy water and human chemistry can produce good citizens. Modern research, in fact, has shown a link between human chemistry and crime, please see: http://www.biolab.co.uk/docs/nkpaper.pdf
BIOSANITIZED floodwater had positive impact during this crisis:
- People co-operated with each other by offering rescue help, food, water, etc.
- Tons of extra garbage generated, plus there was need to handle dead carcasses of 16,000 animals. These were sprayed with biosanitizer water, to sanitize and stabilize them.
- Sewage got mixed in the floodwater, this can create sanitation crisis.
- But BIOSANITIZED flood could heal the crisis and there was no surge of patients in the hospitals after the deluge.
Similar crisis arose in New Orleans (USA) when Katrina created heavy storm and rain. The city was under water for 45 days because of its dish shaped terrain. Without the BIOSANITIZER, people showed criminal behavior, looting took place. While Mumbai was normal within 2-3 days, city of New Orleans took a longer time and perhaps is not same as it was before.
The Mithi river meets the sea at Mahim and local fishermen have reported oysters which indicate clean seawater, were absent for 40 years and have been revived recently. This is due to the BIOSANITIZER’s healing reaction going to the sea, from Powai lake, via the Mithi river. Similarly flamingoes are observed in creeks of Seweri, Thane and Uran. . Flamingoes are indicators of clean sea and are there in Mumbai due to BIOSANITIZER’s healing reactions.
BIOSANITIZER Ecochips provide us tools to possibly prevent the disasters and manage them effectively should they arise. We should spread the healing mechanisms of BIOSANITIZER on a wider scale so as to convert pollution into resources and prevent losses during crisis situations.
- Bhawalkar, U.S. (1997) Vermiculture Bioconversion of Organic Residues, PhD thesis, Chemical Engineering Department, IIT Bombay, Mumbai.
- US Patent No: 6890438 " Process for treatment of organic wastes" H.S.Shankar, B.R. Patnaik, U.S. Bhawalkar, issued 10 May 2005
- "Process for treatment of Organic residues" India Patent Application MUM/384/26 April 2002, H.S. Shankar, B.R. Patnaik,U.S. Bhawalkar
- "Process for treatment of waste water" India Patent Application MUM/383/26 April 2002, H.S. Shankar, B.R. Patnaik, U.S. Bhawalkar
- Patnaik, B.R., Bhawalkar, U.S., Gupta, A., Shankar, H.S., “Residence Time Distribution model for Soil Filters, Water Environment Research, 76(2), 168-174,2004
- Patnaik, B.R., Bhawalkar, U.S., Shankar, H.S., “Waste Processing in Engineered Ecosystems”, 4th World Congress on Chemical Engineering, 23-27, September 2001, Melbourne, Australia
- Patnaik, B.R., Bhawalkar, U.S., Kadam, A, Shankar, H.S., “Soil Biotechnology for Waste Water Treatment and utilization”, 13th ASPAC 2003, International Water Works Association Conference 13-18, October, 2003, Quezon City, Philippines
- Bhawalkar, U.S., Bhawalkar, S.U. (2008) “Invisible, compact and high-rate phytoremediation of water and wastewater using BIOSANITIZER Ecotechnology”, 11th International Conference on Wetland Systems Technology in Water Pollution Control, Nov 1-7, 2008, Indore (India)
- CSE (2008) Recycle and Reuse of Waste water: Decentralized Sewage Treatment Options, published by The Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi(India)
Professional Profile of Dr Uday Bhawalkar
- B. Tech. Chemical Engineering, IIT Bombay, 1973
- Received a PhD at the Chemical Engineering Dept of IIT Bombay (April 1997) for development of the Vermiculture Ecotechnology.
- Received 2 Indian and 2 US patents for this first generation technology.
- Received ‘Best Paper Presentation Award’ at 41st Annual Convention of IWWA (Indian Water Works Association), Hyderabad, January 2009 for the third generation technology (BIOSANITIZER Ecochips).
- Received ‘Best Initiative’ category National Urban Water Award 2009, at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, from the Ministry of Urban Development, Govt of India. The award was received by Nashik Municipal Corporation for successful implementation of BIOSANITIZER Ecochips technology.
- Invited by UNEP to the EST(Environmentally Sound Technologies) Showcase held at Dubai, February 2006.
- Invited by UNICEF to the SACOSAN III, the Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation, held at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, November 2008.
- BIOSANITIZER poster received the 'Best Poster Award' in Nirma Competition held at Valsad, 2008.
- Winner of prestigious Bry-Air Award for ‘Best Product Design.’
- 15 min film produced by DST on BIOSANITIZER Ecochip and broadcast on National DD channel, 2008.
- Nashik Municipal Corporation and Thane Municipal Corporation were announced as winners of Vasundhara Award instituted by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, for showcasing the BIOSANITIZER Ecochip technology, among other things.