Water4Crops, a multi-million Euro collaborative project between India and European Union, has come up with exciting new results in the area of waste-water management, pointing out that reuse of treated waste-water to irrigate fields can increase the produce of select crops by 40%. The bilateral project also aims to address the issue of water demand in agriculture by helping treated domestic waste-water find acceptance amongst the rural people. 

“The reuse of treated waste-water to irrigate fields has shown increased yields of up to 40% in crops such as okra, brinjal or eggplant and chilly plants as compared to those irrigated by fresh water,” EU and Indian government officials said today at a jam-packed auditorium at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, while announcing the results of the Water4Crops project that was started in 2012 with a six million Euro capital doled out by European Commission through its 7th Framework Program. In the same year, India invested 3 million Euros for a similar twin project, Water4Crops-INDIA, through its Department of Biotechnology.

In what could address the challenges of health hazards and sanitation, officials further noted that according to the findings of the project, the construction of wetlands can reduce the amount of pollutants (Chemical Oxygen Demand) in waste-water by 30-92%.

Underlining the fact that India and the EU share common societal challenges such as health, water and energy, Tomasz Kozlowski, the ambassador of EU to India, said: “The EU and India have similar objectives in the area of research policies. 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.”

Indian government officials expressed the hope that the Centre would take note of the project’s results and include them in the Union government’s flagship Swatch Bharat Mission, as safe disposal of waste-water in agriculture, as recommended by Water4Crops, can help reduce pollution and overcome health hazards.

Vijay Raghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, said India and EU will provide implementable solutions to the challenges that India faces by sharing research and technologies among participating consortia in India and Europe.

The EU Consortium includes 21 partners from eight countries and an Indian consortium of 11 research and development partners led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The Indian consortium partners have demonstrated the use of constructed wetlands as decentralised waste-water treatment systems for both industrial and municipal waste-water. At the SABMiller factory in Sangareddy, Telangana, and K.C.P. 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 waste-water at multiple locations in the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.

Y.S. Chowdary, Minister of State, Ministry of Science & Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences, commended the findings of the project, saying that treated wastewater can go a long way in 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.     

Based on the pilot sites at the ICRISAT headquarters in Hyderabad and other locations, 28 watershed sites are now supported by various corporates under corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects as well as Karnataka’s Bhoo Samrudhi program and Andhra Pradesh Primary Sector Mission (APPSM) Rythu Kosam, where a decentralised wastewater treatment (DWT) approach is being implemented and popularised. 

“This technology of treated domestic waste-water 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,” Suhas P Wani, Project Leader and Director, Asia Region, ICRISAT, said, rounding up the importance of the India-EU initiative.