Thursday, 29 November 2018

IISc Seeks To Deliver Clean Water And Sanitation As Part Of An International Initiative


(Dr. Rachel Helliwell, Project Coordinator and a senior research scientist
at the James Hutton Institute, lights a lamp during the inauguration of the project.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney watches on)
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are collaborating with their counterparts from a consortium led by James Hutton Institute, University of Glasgow and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) on a project funded by Scottish Government to deliver a low-cost, decentralized wastewater treatment system.

The pilot facility has been set up in a school – the Berambadi Primary School in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka – to serve the needs of its students and staff. It was inaugurated on 28 November 2018 by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Mr. John Swinney during an official visit to India.

The toilet block at the Berambadi Primary School
At the launch, Mr. Swinney said that it was Scotland’s duty to share its expertise and experience in the area of wastewater treatment with the wider world. Rachel Helliwell, Project Coordinator and a senior research scientist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, added that the initiative, which aims to improve public sanitation and environmental health in rural India, drew on the academic and research excellence of scientists from both Scotland and India. Following a screening of a short film tracing its journey, the event saw an interactive session on the lessons learnt from the project and the potential for new partnerships in wastewater treatment.

Lakshminarayana Rao, the lead researcher from IISc, says that the choice of a rural primary school to house the plant was a deliberate one. “Rural schools in India have a mid-day meal scheme. There’s a lot of wastewater coming from the kitchen and handwash. This is a low-hanging fruit because this water can be recycled to be used in toilets for flushing,” he explains.

Most wastewater we generate is called grey water (wastewater that does not originate in toilets). By contrast, wastewater which contains faeces and urine, and therefore pathogens, is referred to as black water.

To recover grey water, the Berambadi project uses, among other methods, plasma technology developed by Rao’s team at IISc. “We’re using a component of plasma to generate ozone which disinfects the water,” he elaborates. His lab has developed a high-throughput ozonator which provides large volumes of ozone while ensuring that its energy demands are lesser than conventional technologies.

On the other hand, black water is treated before it is discharged by a multi-step anaerobic digestion process developed by the Scottish water scientists. This ensures that neither the groundwater nor the river downstream is contaminated.

Besides grey water recovery and black water treatment, the project also has a rainwater harvesting system which collects about 60,000 litres of water during the rainy season for use by the school. In addition, it has an incinerator to help dispose sanitary napkins. The entire system – as well as lighting for the school – is powered by solar energy, which Rao says makes it a “stand-alone, grid-independent system.”

A critical feature of the project, which began over a year-and-a-half ago, has been its engagement with the local community. It has been designed keeping in mind the local socio-cultural and economic conditions as well as sanitation behaviours. “This initiative is hugely exciting because it integrates social science and new technologies to deliver on an ambitious and important Sustainable Development Goal: providing clean water and sanitation for all by 2030,” says Helliwell.

Rao believes that this modular system can be replicated as well as scaled up. He says that these decentralised plants can also be built in urban settings like apartment complexes and educational institutions, especially those with hostels. According to him, by merely combining a grey water recovery system with a rainwater harvesting plant, the use of fresh water – which he describes as a luxury for a country like India – could go down by as much as forty percent.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

NIPGR Researchers Open A Window On The Secrets Of Plant Life to Public

NIPGR organized an Open day for the general public in order to popularize research in plant sciences and its applications.

BY SCISOUP  Appeared In BiotechTimes ResearchStash

On October 26, 2018, New Delhi based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, had organized an Open day for the general public in order to popularize research in plant sciences and its applications.

Students and teachers were invited from various National Capital Region (NCR) based schools and colleges to visit laboratories of NIPGR. Here is a link to a short report on NIPGR Science Outreach event:
In this event, a total of 1079 students participated along with their teachers. Among the participant, 958 were school students from 30 different government and private schools and 121 college students from 3 colleges. The NIPGR community presented 31 posters and 18 exhibits on various aspects of life sciences in general and plant sciences in particular.

“The open day is an opportunity for NIPGR to open its doors to the local community and contribute towards inculcating in students a passion for science,” said Prof. Ramesh V. Sonti, Director at NIPGR, New Delhi.

NIPGR scientists, technical specialists, and young researchers explained in very simple language about ongoing plant research activities in the institute. They covered various aspects of plant sciences including photosynthesis, ecological nitrogen fixation, plant-pathogen interactions, crop yield improvement etc.

Various posters, exhibitions, and practical demonstrations like how to isolate DNA from plants, how to visualize protein and DNA in gel etc. were arranged to provide real experiences of a working molecular biology laboratory. The visitors were also provided a tour of the research facilities at NIPGR, where they were explained about the working of various scientific instruments like the Confocal Microscope, automated DNA Sequencer, PCR, Real-time PCR, central instrumentation facility etc.

School students got an opportunity to witness the banana plant tissue culture techniques for a better understanding of working with plants in the laboratory. Students were also shown plant cells under the foldscope microscope. They were shown videos clearly demonstrating how plant stem cells look like under advanced microscopes.

Day-Long activities and interactions with NIPGR researchers have sensitized and inspired students and teachers about the opportunities in plant sciences, particularly in plant molecular biology.