The increased dumping of industrial waste and sewage into the water bodies of several cities brings with it all sorts of contamination. One of the most significant problems that lakes in India face is the attack of water hyacinths, which breed in alarming numbers due to the pollutants in the water. Water hyacinths, even though they are plants, are known to choke lakes, by obstructing the sunlight available to water plants, and killing marine life.
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However, thanks to the Accelerated Anaerobic Composting (AAC) technology developed by the scientists of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, in association with Khar Energy Optimisers, these harmful weeds can now be used as compost, optimising the nutrients within the hyacinth to create organic fertiliser of high standards.
“The AAC can convert green waste into usable compost within 28 days. Khar wanted this to be used for water hyacinths plaguing the lakes, and that was where our project started”, says Dr Gangagni Rao, the principal scientist who worked on the project.
So how does this process work? The water hyacinths are first collected from the lake using a JCB. Later, the stems are removed from the roots and are chopped into small pieces using a chaff cutter. These are blended with an anaerobic culture developed by Dr Gangagni Rao and his team, resulting in highly-fertile organic compost.
The project has proved to be efficient in the Kapra Lake of Hyderabad, where among 113 acres, 80 acres (the equivalent of 16,000 tonnes) were occupied by water hyacinths, but the question is, can this technology apply to the lakes across India?
“This composting process can be used in all kinds of lakes. However, the composition of water varies from lake to lake and can be seen in the water hyacinths as well. Taking that into account, the utility of the product can work better in some areas rather than others”, says Dr Gangagni.
He adds that the water hyacinth can be used for several purposes, including the generation of biogas, making handicrafts such as baskets and pulp for handmade paper—but it is composting that is the most economical solution and has the potential to be a permanent solution for lakes across the country.
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IICT scientists working along with Khar Energy Optimisers, are currently looking to implement this project in other lakes in Hyderabad, and if successful, will expand to operations across India’s lakes.
“When the environment gives us many things, we have to give something back to preserve it. That was what motivated us to develop a solution to help lakes in the area,” explains Dr Gangagni.