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Sep 25, 2003
Toxic wastes reclaim land

When in November 2000, GoodNewsIndia reported the incredible discovery of two scientists who quietly asserted that environmental menaces such as fly ash, sewage sludge and the redoubtable water hyacinth could be combined into a formidable regenerating agent for depleted soils, many must have thought them to be a little too optimistic!

But Dr Mike Powell and Dr Subhashish Tripathi gave substantial scientific data to justify serious trials and pilot experiments. These were successful and confirmed the promise. At that time, even the initiators of the discovery were cautious though a feeling of achievement was palpable. It seemed that the Canadian scientist and his Indian colleague had discovered a way of turning lead to gold!

At the end of the project, in the words of Dr Powell: “Our 5-year project ended last July,02. I can honestly say that it was a success and the technology we developed is being discussed in many circles in India as one of the best ways to deal with fly ash and organic waste”.

Organic and other toxic waste disposal is a matter of great concern to all and such an achievement is to be lauded. GoodNewsIndia decided to find out the extent of success and the findings are striking.

The technology has been successfully demonstrated in eight states of India and 400 hectares of land has been reclaimed, tree plantations established and even edible crops trials conducted with success bringing about great benefits to many communities.

With the private sectors involvement, tree plantations were established in Raipur. The trees have shown tangible growth and the local rural population has benefited from large scale employment.

In Cuttack, Orissa, 100 hectares of land devastated and degraded by the super cyclone of 2000 have been brought under plantation under the project. Greenery has been restored and an alternative use for the city waste has been found. Moreover, employment generation registered a substantial boost.

In the Bailo Kashipur village of Dhenkanal District Orissa, 40 hectares of land were used for a Community based plantation programme aimed at emphasizing common property resource management and gender sensitization. The project was a huge success and gave 9521 man days of employment.

In Andhra Pradesh a forest plantation drive was undertaken in Kanupur. 41 hectares of wasteland was remineralised and plantations established. This project gave 8522 man days of employment.

And finally IIT Kharagpur implemented and executed an edible crop trial in Karnataka which was a great success. Sunflower, maize and groundnut were sown consecutively for 3 years. Substantial enhancement was visible in all cases and no heavy metal accumulation beyond toxic limits was detected.

Lead to gold? Well it does seem to be the case here! A way of ‘recycling’ toxic waste into manna for the earth! Let us just say that sometimes seemingly desperate situations can turn out to be boons in disguise.

Maybe someone could find a similar ‘miracle’ for the heaps of coloured plastic bags that litter our environment!


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