India-EU looking to scale up project for using wastewater for crops

The project explores recycling of treated wastewater from domestic and industrial sources to benefit farmers, industries and researchers


The reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate fields has shown increased yields of okra, brinjal and chillies. Photo: Mint
The reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate fields has shown increased yields of okra, brinjal and chillies. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: A joint project funded by the European Union and the Indian government called Water4Crops has shown evidence that using treated wastewater for irrigation increases yields in crops such as okra and brinjal.

The project explores recycling of treated wastewater from domestic and industrial sources to benefit farmers, industries, researchers as well as government organizations.

Eleven Indian and 21 EU organizations, which collaborated on developing domestic wastewater treatment technologies suitable for rural areas over four years since the start of project, are now looking to scale up by integrating the project with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and corporate social responsibility schemes of companies.

Describing the technologies used in the treatment plants set up across the country as part of the project, Suhas Waini, project leader and director, International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), said that the researchers had identified plants that can take out specific pollutants in wetlands such as typha and water hyacinth, and micro organisms that work on industrial pollutants.

The results evaluated by the consortium on Wednesday showed that the reuse of treated wastewater to irrigate fields showed increased yields of up to 40% in okra, brinjal and chillies.

The technology is currently being implement in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana, while a tie-up with other states is being initiated. “We need to work with states to scale up the innovations,” said K. Vijayaraghavan, secretary, Department of Biotechnology.

The four-year Indo-European project is co-funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, and the European Commission. The total funding stands at €12 million.

“We have technologies that can treat wastewater and recycle it. In one of our breweries, this is happening. The next step is to figure out what do you do with that water. To look at solutions from academia and researchers as to how this can be taken forward,” said Meenakshi Sharma vice-president, Sustainability and Communication, SABMiller India, one of the world’s largest brewers.

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