Water availability is declining rapidly, due to rising population, industrial use, and urbanisation. Available water also faces a threat from pollution because it gets mixed with wastewater streams. This is where the significance of the ‘Water4Crops’ project becomes relevant.
Under the ‘Water4Crops’ project, the Andhra Pradesh-based M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has designed an innovative four-step natural treatment system (a bio-treatment method), to recycle and reuse the sugar industry’s wastewater in agriculture with the support of the Directorate of Biotechnology, Government of India.
The project is part of an Indo-European collaborative effort which will be executed under two projects — ‘Water 4 Crops-EU’ and ‘Water 4 Crops-India’ — in a consortium approach made up of around 36 partners. The Indian consortium consists of around 14 partners including industry representatives, academic bodies, NGOs, and research institutions.
MSSRF has designed low-cost technologies for treating wastewater from sugar and distillery units of KCP Sugar and Industrial Corporation Ltd in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. MSSRF began the project in 2013 after discovering that wastewater from effluent treatment plants in the KCP sugar unit contained toxins beyond the permissible limit for use in aqua- and agro-farming. Since 2014, sugarcane farmers have been using water from the bio-treatment plant for irrigation.
How it works
Effluents released from the primary treatment plants in the sugar unit are pumped into a filtration tank which removes coarse materials and conveys them through gravity to a wetland system. The wetland is filled with gravel and vegetation including typha, an emergent macrophite, apart from duckweed and algae that grow naturally in the environment. It contains five chambers with water flowing from one to another in an alternating flow of vertical and horizontal movement.
The resultant water is passed on to a storage tank where UV radiations from sunlight kill pathogens that may be left behind. The bio-treated water is finally sent to a fishpond. The pond also acts as a culturing medium, enriching the water through the nitrogen cycle, so that it can be used for irrigation.
Dr J D Sophia, Principal Scientist MSSRF, and her team Dr Jastin Samuel and J Hemamalini, have presented the results of a three-year research activity for treating wastewater from sugarcane factories through a constructed wetland system which is a low-cost, environment friendly process.
The project, Integrating bio-treated wastewater reuse with enhanced water use efficiency to support the green economy in EU and India, is scouting for innovation in wastewater treatment and reuse in agriculture with enhanced water use efficiency.
The project involves an innovative and cost-effective way of treating industrial effluents from the sugar industry, for reuse in integrated aqua-agro farming systems.
Dr J D Sophia tells the Council that sugarcane farmers have reported better yields due to use of water from the bio-treatment method, compared to water from conventional treatment methods. Dr Sophia perfected the treatment process for the reuse of effluents. She says that the reuse of bio-treated wastewater increases water availability and productivity in an eco-friendly manner, with significant savings.