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SSIR – Bangalore Lakes by Michel St. Pierre
On October 16th, Sherwood Institute board member Michel St. Pierre published an article titled “Sustainable Development in India” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in which he discusses the work the Sherwood Institute’s work in Bangalore, and how the city has been affected by India’s quickly rising population. “Bangalore… is a metropolis of 5.4 million people that was once dotted with hundreds of lakes, which created a livable city providing food and water for residents, opportunities for livelihoods, habitat for rare and migratory birds, and a rich cultural heritage” Pierre describes. “With the city’s rapid development, and a lack of public action to protect the natural resources of the city, today less than a third of the lakes remain. There is pollution from human and industrial waste and land filling has occurred through illegal dumping and development.” Sherwood Institute’s project to restore the lakes of Bangalore encourages innovation, as a solution must integrate many aspects of the city’s infrastructure, ecological and social systems. “The solution includes efforts in a variety of areas: from garnering local political support and creating a Lake Development Advisory Commission, to working to affect policy in Bangalore and fundraising for early phase restoration efforts.” Pierre “believe[s] that the vision for the lake restoration is a key step toward a major quality of urban life enhancement in Bangalore… Hopefully, this initiative can provide a way forward for similar initiatives elsewhere in the country.”
This month, St. Pierre will be presenting with Sherwood Institute Associate Director John Leys at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco on the topic. The talk will take place on November 15th from 1:30-2:30pm. Details here. (link to GB site session info)
Click here to read the full article.
My Research at Tsinghua University
Perhaps a few readers will be interested in the research that I have been doing over the past few years at Tsinghua University, located in Beijing, China. Tsinghua University is considered to be one of the best universities in China, also sometimes known as the MIT of China. I have been doing research in the Persistent Organic Pollutants Research Group of the School of Environment for the past two years.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are chemical contaminants which exhibit persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic properties in the environment. They also have long distance transport potential and therefore have been found to exist in remote areas, such as the Arctic, where they accumulate in the fat, blood and inner organs of animals such as polar bears. The Stockholm Convention on POPs was signed in 2001 and put into effect in 2004, as an international accord to reduce and eliminate the use and production of designated POPs. The original convention took place in 2001 as a response to a call from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to take action on POPs, and included a list of the “Dirty Dozen” chemicals, which were designated as the “worst offender” chemicals. In 2009, a second set of 9 chemicals were added as the “new POPs”. China is a party to the Stockholm Convention, and thus has shown commitment to eliminating the production and use of the listed POPs.
My research focused on one of the “new POPs”, called perfluorooctanesulphonate (PFOS), which is a fully fluorinated eight carbon chain with a sulfonic acid head. Because this chemical is both oleophobic and hydrophobic (exclusion of both non-polar oils and polar water), it was historically used as a surfactant and coating for many products, including fabrics and carpeting. The most common product utilizing PFOS was produced by 3M, and called Scotchgard™. In addition, it is commonly used as a processing aid in industries including metal plating, and paper treatment, and as a key ingredient in aqueous fire-fighting foams (used to combat fires fueled by highly flammable gases or liquids).
In 2000, 3M, then the largest producer of the parent compound Perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (POSF), announced the discontinuation of all its PFOS-related products because of the chemical’s toxicity to humans and the environment. Shortly thereafter, most other countries followed suit and banned the production of the chemicals. However, because of a lack of appropriate substitutes and technical transfer, China continues to be the only country still reported to be producing POSF and utilizing PFOS, despite its entrance into the Stockholm Convention.
Relatively speaking, China has only produced a small amount of POSF compared to 3M, however, there the true effects of this contaminant are still not determined because of incomplete emissions inventory, which is typically needed to be able to assess a contaminant’s effect in a certain region. Mostly, there is no existing, complete centralized record of exactly which industries are still utilizing PFOS. The first part of my research was to determine the key areas in China for which more investigation investment would be likely to contribute the most emission of PFOS into the environment. I designed a emissions inventory methodology specific to the contamination patterns of PFOS in the Chinese environment that grouped lifetime product releases into wastewater treatment plant effluents, while determining key industries for further investigation. Wastewater treatment effluent concentrations were determined to exhibit a correlation with more easily-obtainable geo-referenced data, such as population density and city GDP. This way, an estimate of PFOS emission can be extrapolated without having to test every city’s wastewater effluents.
While designing the emissions inventory methodology, I found that China-specific industrial data and emissions factors are greatly lacking, but that environmental monitoring concentrations are much more available for a wide range of areas within China. Therefore, utilizing these environmental concentrations, I developed a unique multimedia fugacity model to estimate source load in a given area, given PFOS’ physical-chemical properties and the hydrological conditions of the modeled area. I completed a case study example and successfully proved my model’s stability for a segment of the Huangpu River in Shanghai.
In addition, also using the available environmental monitoring concentrations, I also carried the first national probabilistic risk assessment for PFOS in China. Probabilistic risk assessment is different from deterministic risk assessments, which have been performed in the past, in that it is able to incorporate spatial and temporal variability. Based on toxicity data reported in the literature, I also derived a predicted no effect concentration range (PNEC) by which to evaluate the conservativeness of previously reported PNEC values.
I enjoyed my two years at Tsinghua University. Aside from my research, I participated in many of my research group’s and school activities. This year was the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the university, and I was chosen as a representative of the School of Environment to attend the celebration at the Great Hall of the People, where President Hu Jintao (alumus of Tsinghua University Hydraulic Engineering) spoke, along with the presidents of Tsinghua University, Peking Univeristy, Yale University and student and faculty representatives. This year was also the first year that The Department of Environmental Science and Engineering became the School of Environment, an event that represents the growing importance of environmental issues in China and the country’s commitment to training the country’s best and brightest to help solve some of China’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Pictures from an “Eco-resort” near Beijing
A few weeks ago, I visited an eco-resort outside of Beijing. The resort promoted fishing and freshwater crabbing in stocked ponds, but when I ventured to a far corner of the man-made pond, I saw about a dozen dead fish floating in the water. Here are some photos:
Eco-travel, eco-vacations, and eco-resorts are all hot words right now in China, which is good, in that people are starting to be more aware of the importance of nature. But images like the ones above are a reminder that along with the new vocabulary, some major improvements need to be made in the actual quality of the environments here. Guests should be aware that sometimes, the letters “e-c-o” in front of something may not have much meaning.
Agricultural management in the Tai Lake region
Following the conversation from the eutrophication of Lake Tai (Taihu), probably the most publicized Chinese eutrophication event in Western media, many will probably want to know more about the sources of the excess nutirents leading to massive algal blooms and deteriorating water quality. In February, the New York Times reported that previous information on the extent of the deteriorating surface water quality in China severely underestimated the scale and influence of agricultural runoff, focusing mostly on point sources such as industrial effluent. Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a nonprofit research group in Beijing, rightly pointed out in the article that pollution emissions stemming from millions of rural farmers will prove an even bigger challenge than slapping fines on factories and industrial sources. But, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is now beginning to realize that the agricultural contribution to poor surface water quality is just as prominent as the industrial contribution. Here I will give a brief overview of the issues at hand, from the perspective of nitrogen as an excess nutrient pollutant stemming from agricultural sources. In a previous post, we identified the main source of total nitrogen content in Lake Tai as having an agricultural origin.
In contrast to Europe and the United States, which could both be argued to have undergone agricultural intensification over a period of centuries, in China, the shift from traditional, complex, labor-intensive farming systems based on nutrient recycling happened over about four decades. Now, China’s agricultural system as a whole is heavily dependent on introduced inorganic nitorgen fertilizers and is utilizing less and less organic and green manures to replenish nutrients that are removed from agricultural soils when crops are harvested. The agricultural scheme utilized in the Tai Lake region is one of the two most intensive double cropping systems in China: summer waterlogged rice followed by winter upland wheat.
Generally, inorganic nitrogen, which, in the case of China, is usually introduced to fields in the form of urea-based fertilizers, is quickly converted into ammonium (NH4+) and later into nitrate (NO3-) by microorganisms in the soil according to the normal function of the nitrogen cycle. A portion of the nitrogen is also lost by NH3 volatization to the atmosphere, which contributes to air pollution and acid rain. Most plants, including rice and wheat. more readily take up the nitrate form of nitrogen than they do the ammonuium form. However, due to the negative repelling charge of nitrite with the surrounding soil (especially if the soil’s content is high in clay), the nitrate form is also highly mobile in soil and is easily carried by percolating water into surface water or groundwater. Ammonium, on the other hand, sorbs to clay and organic matter, and although is less readily absorbed by plants, is held in soil for a prolonged period of time if not further converted to the nitrate form. Organic nitrogen supplements, including proteins or amino acids found in animal waste, are a slow release source of nitrogen for crops, as organic nitrogen must first be converted into its inorganic forms in order to be taken up by plants.
Nitrogen that is quickly converted from urea fertizlier into nitrate is lost by leaching through soil into water. Studies on the intensive wheat/rice double crop cycle followed in the Taihu region show that alternating wheat and waterlogged rice leads to an accumulation of nitrate after the wheat season. However, flooded rice fields in the following season results in much of the nitrate being lost by leaching. (Ju et al 2009) Farmers in the Tai Lake region also tend to use more fertilizer during the wheat season than wheat farmers in northern China, but result in lower grain yields. A possible explanation is that Tai Lake region farmers try to use increased amounts of fertilizer to compensate for poorer wheat cultivation conditions.
Much of the problem of nitrogen leaching lies in agricultural practices . One- poor wheat-growing conditions in the Lake Tai region lead farmers to overuse fertilizers (with little to no effectiveness achieved in crop gain) during the wheat season, and two- the traditional use of flooded rice paddies promotes nitrogen leaching. We can see here that one aspect of the problem is psychological: with farmers holding to the belief that increasing inorganic fertilizer use will lead to increased crop yields. The other aspect is technical.
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), developed in 1983 by Henri de Laulanie, a French agricultural practioner living in Madagascar, is one method that has been utilized worldwide to increase rice yields with fewer water and fertilizer inputs. One key aspect to SRI is that, unlike traditional rice cultivation methods, rice plants are not kept under waterlogged conditions, but instead, rotated between wet and dry conditions. Alternating between wet and dry causes cracking of the earth, promoting aeration of the soil, increased root growth, and slower leaching of nitrogen from the topsoil. The wider root systems of each individual rice plant is then able to take up more of the applied nutrients (nitrogen) from the soil, resulting in healthier plants with more tillers, and better yields. In Sichuan Province, farmers have achieved 40% greater yields using SRI, with less water and nutrient inputs.
However, as China has a rice cultivation history that spans thousands of years, urging farmers to change their flooding methods will continue to be a difficult task. This, coupled with the relatively recent introduction of inorganic fertilizers and their overuse will probably be the biggest challenge in reducing the contribution of agricultural sources of nitrogen to water deterioration in the Tai Lake region. Experts (Want et al 2006, Richter et al 2000) have recognized the need to the economic “internalization of environmental externality”, calling for measures such as the removal of government subsidies on agricultural fertilizers (reducing over application of nitrogen to fields) and improvements on water pricing and water rights legislation (reducing unneeded water usage by adjusting prices to reflect the costs of using the resource and reflecting the needs of water quality improvements).
Richter, et al. 2000. “The N-Cycle as determined by intensive agriculture– examples from central Europe and China” Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems.
Wang, et al. 2006. “Toward Integrated Environmental Management for Challenges in Water Environmental Protection of Lake Taihu Basin in China”. Environmental Management.
Introduction to Taihu
Lake Taihu (太湖), also called Tai Lake, is the third largest freshwater lake in China. Although it began receiving widespread coverage in the western media after a major algal bloom that covered 1/3 of the lake’s area in 2007, killing fish and disrupting surrounding areas potable water supply, the lake has been experiencing a decline in water quality for the past 20 years. The lake is located on the southern part of the Yangtze in southeastern China and is administered jointly by Shanghai Municipality, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province, serving as a floodwater basin, irrigation supply, drinking water source, aquaculture base and tourist attraction. It is the major source of drinking water for the municipalities of Wuxi, Suzhou and Shanghai. The algal outbreak in 2007, called a “natural disaster” by government officials, caused a noticeble drop in water quality for local residents, who said that they could smell the stench of the algae on their bodies after showering, and were forced to rely on bottled water for drinking.
During the last 20 years, the rapid urbanization of the areas surrounding Taiju, coupled with ineffective management and technical support, have not only caused the eutrophication of the lake, but also its contamination with organic substances and ecological destruction. Now, many doubt the lake’s water quality to ensure safety of the millions who rely upon it as a drinking water source. The water quality of the lake was rated I or II according to China’s National Surface Water Standard up until the 1970s. By the late 1980s the quality had fallen mostly to class III, white in some parts, it reached IV and V. In the late 1990s the lake rated an overall class IV, with approximately one-third of the lake as class V. Lake Tai has become a symbol of water environmental protection, which is a high-priority issue for government at all levels.
Government Five-Year Plans have continued to make Lake Tai an issue of major importance. The Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000) proposed 54 domestic wastewater treatment plants and sewage conduits were planned to be located in the basin. Later however, only 29 plants were completed or partially completed by the end of the period. The Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005), 81 domestic wastewater treatment plants were expected to be built or explanded by 2005. The goal was to be reach over 70% treatment of domestic wastewater. In addition to building more wastewater treatment plants in the Taihu Basin, other measures have also been taken in an attempt to abate the spread of noxious blue-green algal blooms, including releasing algae-eating fish into the lake, physically hauling algae out of the lake, and crackdowns on government corruption in enforcement of effluent standards.
While good intentions obviously exist for the future of Lake Tai, implementation has been difficult and the water quality in the lake has not risen significantly. The main problem of Lake Tai’s pollution issue is the algal blooms. Overgrowth of algae is caused by water that is rich in nutirents (nitrogen and phosphorous), that are usually the limiting factors in algal growth. With nitrogen and phosphorous existing in surface water in excess, algae growth becomes almost limitless, just waiting for the right temporal conditions to cause an extensive bloom. And, when algae goes into respiration conditions at night and when dead algae is digested by microorganisms, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the surfacw water can be virtually depleted, causing fish kills and decrease in biodiversity. According to reports, the major sources of nitrogen and phosphorous in surface water are industrial effluent, domestic wastewater treatment plant effluent, and agriculture. Each type of effluent into surface water has different characteristics; for example, household wastewater is a greater contributor of phosphorous and ammonium (NH4+), while agricultural runoff is a greater contributor of nitrate (NO3-). Below, we can see the contributions of pollution sources Industry (Ind.), Household (Hou.), and Agriculture (Agr.) to the chemical oxygen demand (COD), total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorous (TP) in Tai Lake. The figure shows that the main contributors of the pollution of Tai Lake have become household discharges and agriculture.
In response to industrial and municipal contributions of nitrogen and phosphorous to surface waters, China’s Five-Year Plans are right to regulate large industries and build more, or retrofit, wastewater treatment facilities (most current wastewater treatment facilities in China do not include tertiary treatment processes that remove nutrients nitrogen and phosphrous from the effluent). Recent banning of phosphorous-containing detergents is another example of effectively reducing the household discharge contribution to the Tai Lake pollution problem.
In my next post, I’ll address agricultural runoff (fertilizers) contribution to the condition of the Tai Lake Basin.
?Source: Wang Q et al. 2006. “Profile: Toward Integrated Environmental Management for Challenges in Water Environmental Protection of Lake Taihu Basin in China” Environmental Management Vol. 37, No. 5, pp 579-588.
A Closer Look at Water Issues in Bangalore
A study taken by the Centre for Symbiosis of Technology, Environment, and Management (STEP) approximated that 40% of the population of Bangalore is dependent on groundwater. There are around 125,000 private bore wells in the city. Because the extraction of groundwater is highly unregulated, the water tables have been rapidly depleting. According to R. Vasudevan, a chief engineer of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), the water levels have dropped 300 feet below ground level. The BWSSB extracts the majority of the water they distribute from the Cauvery River. This river is located almost 100 km away from the city and at an altitude of about 1,500 feet below that of the city. Because of this, approximately 75% of the total BWSSB revenue is spent on electricity charges. Another huge problem exists – almost 30% of the water extracted is lost to corroded and broken piping systems. The piping system in the city is over 50 years old. Many of the pipes are in horrible condition, producing many leaks. Unfortunately, the BWSSB has only made temporary fixes to repair the decaying pipes rather than to replace them entirely.
With such water shortages looming over the city, it is essential for changes in the water policy of the city to take effect. The BWSSB has just mandated rainwater harvesting last year as an amendment to the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Act of 1964. The amendment states that all buildings with a total rooftop area of 2400 square feet or greater must install a rainwater harvesting system; all proposals for buildings with a total rooftop area of 1200 square feet or greater must include plans for a rainwater harvesting system. In order to see how effective rainwater harvesting can be, I have prepared a basic water balance of the city. The following values necessary for a balance were found. Some of the metrics were determined by simple calculations.
|Area of the City||
|Amount of Average Rainfall||
|TOTAL Amount of Rainfall in the City, Annual||
Water Demand Data:
Per Capita Water Demand*
|Population of the City||
|Water Demand for Domestic Use, Annually||
|Daily Water Demand for Other Uses**||
|Water Demand for Other Uses, Annually||
|TOTAL Water Demand, Annually||
*Please Note: This value is standard set by the Central Public Health and Environmental Organization. However, this is an overestimate of the per capita water use daily. Studies show that many people use only around 100 L of water per day.
**Please Note: This value encompasses the demand for commercial establishments, industrial users, institutional users, grounds (municipal and industry), fountains, and unaccounted for water (leakages). This data was gathered from surveys and interviews. The values were obtained from the Resource Optimization Initiative:
Eckelman, M. J., Shenoy. M., Ramaswamy, R., Chertow, M. 2010. Applying industrial ecology tools to increase understanding of demand-side water management in Bangalore, India. (unpublished manuscript).
If we look at the total amount of rainfall on the city and the total water demand, we see that the total rainfall is only slightly greater than the total water demand. We must take several things into account. First of all, it is not possible to capture 100% of the total rainfall. If we approximate that 70% of the total rainfall can be effectively captured to recharge aquifers, lakes, and bore wells, then the total water demand exceeds the amount of rainfall captured. This shows the severity of the water shortages in Bangalore. The numbers are too close to each other for comfort!
In order to alleviate the water scarcity issues, a greater campaign to install rainwater harvesting units should be invested in. People should be made aware of the advantages that rainwater harvesting can have. In addition, the BWSSB should work to expand their water reuse programs. Currently less than 1% of water is recycled for reuse. More sewage treatment plants should be installed to increase this percentage. There are many ways to solve this water crisis. Small steps can yield large results. Installing a rainwater harvesting system can be as cheap as 400 Indian Rupees (Approximately $8.50). The installation of such units will help both the people and the environment. The citizens of Bangalore can reap the benefits of sustainable water management while the environment can enjoy its water sources being replenished.
Bangalore Lakes in Grave Need of Help!
The last stop in my trip to India was Bangalore. Bangalore is the third largest city in India. Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India, due to the rampant IT industry there. It is one of the most prominent cultural and economic hubs in India. Bangalore is truly a beautiful city. However, it is notorious for three things: traffic, frequent power outages, and severe water scarcity.
Let’s talk water – Almost all of the city’s water supply comes from the Cauvery and the Arkavathy Rivers. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) supplies approximately 900 million liters of water daily. However, the demand of water exceeds 1.2 billion liters. Many people once relied on the lakes to suffice their water needs. Most of the lakes of Bangalore are man-made, constructed for the purposes of drinking water, irrigation and fishing. Currently, the lakes in Bangalore suffer heavy amounts of pollution. The Greater Bangalore region once had 400 lakes. Now there are only around 93.
One lake that has suffered greatly from pollution is the Bellandur Lake. The Bellandur Lake is located in East Bangalore and spans an area of 960 acres. The Lake was once used a main source of water for the people of Bangalore. Water was used for irrigation, fishing, and for household matters, including drinking, washing, and cleaning. Until the 1970s, people in 18 different villages depended on the Bellandur Lake for their everyday needs. The lake has been greatly affected by the rapid urbanization that has been occurring in Bangalore. It has been negatively impacted by domestic and industrial pollution, the destruction of wetlands and the changes in the land usage surrounding the lake. Unplanned urbanization along with unchecked industrial, domestic, and commercial development caused the lake started to suffer greatly.
Currently, a large portion of the lake is covered in weeds and fields. The water in the lake is greatly polluted. There is no aquatic life within the lake. The stench emanating from the lake is beyond foul. At the outlet of the lake, heavy foam from an excess of industrial effluent can be seen.
The Bellandur Lake is connected to the Agara Lake through a stormwater drain. Bangalore consists of a series of interconnected lakes. The Agara and Madivalla connect to the Bellandur Lake. The outlet of the Bellandur connects to the Varthur. The lakes are connected by an extensive stormwater drainage system. The system once carried water, however, now it carries sewage. The Bellandur Lake is located in one of the three main valleys of Bangalore, known as the Koramangala and Challagatha Valley. Due to its location, the lake has been used to direct a large portion of Bangalore’s sewage. Currently, the BWSSB has set up three sewage treatment plants with a total capacity of 248 MLD. However, only 110 MLD of the total capacity is actually utilized. According to the BWSSB, by 2021, the volume of sewage produced by the city will be 359 MLD; by 2036, the volume will be 416 MLD. Already, urbanization and the flux of sewage into the lake have led to eutrophication. An increase in the volume of sewage will only lead to the lake’s further demise.
A major problem exists within the stormwater drains. There is so much pollution within these drains. Untreated domestic waste and industrial effluents are dumped straight into them. The pollution in the drains is directly transferred into the lakes. The pictures below show the pollution accumulating within these drains.
The lakes were once able to serve as natural wetlands, treating the wastewater that flowed into them from the stormwater drains. However, the amount of pollution in these drains exceeds the remediation capabilities of the lakes. The main problem exists in the lack of a strictly enforced waste disposal policy. Punishments should be given to those who are polluting the stormwater drains and the lakes. The citizens of Bangalore should be made aware of the amount of pollution entering the drains and also educated on proper waste disposal techniques, including recycling. Industries polluting the lakes should be fined heavily. Also, the BWSSB should work to increase the capabilities of their treatment plants.
There are various government bodies that are responsible for the Bellandur Lake, including: the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the BWSSB, the Minor Irrigations Department (MID), and the Lake Development Authority (LDA). The lake is located in the jurisdiction of the BBMP. The BBMP is the civic corporation that governs Bangalore. It is responsible for the maintenance of the storm water drains that lead into the lake. The BWSSB is responsible for properly regulating the sewage that enters the lake. The MID has ownership of the lake. The LDA is entrusted with maintaining and preserving the lakes in Bangalore. These organizations should work together to help preserve the lakes and stormwater drains.
There have been many pleas and enquiries to the government of the Bangalore to help remediate this situation. However, no substantial progress has been made. A strong commitment to restoring the Bellandur Lake and cleaning the stormwater drains must be taken.
Open Sewage Systems Hinder Development in Puducherry
It’s been two weeks since I have arrived in India. Although I have spent most of my time in Chennai, I have had the opportunity to travel to several other parts of South India. Recently I visited Puducherry (formerly known as Pondicherry), a Union territory of India. Puducherry is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South India. It was under French rule until 1954. The city still retains much of the French influence – the entire layout of the city was planned to imitate French design, mainly in the grid pattern of the city. Colonial ambience of the city is still preserved. Puducherry contains many colonial buildings, temples, churches, historical monuments, and beautiful beaches. Most of the city has been well maintained and remains quite picturesque.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the city was immediately contrasted by the sight and the smell of the open sewage system that exists throughout the city. I was shocked to see that a city with such well developed infrastructure lacked a proper sewage system. The following photos show the open sewage system that runs throughout the city
An open sewage system raises many environmental and public health issues. Sewage containing human wastes is the most dangerous material polluting the water. The main diseases transmitted through the polluted water are typhoid, paratyphoid, dysentery, and infective hepatitis. Canals containing waste water in Puducherry mix with various bodies of water. In a point where the waste water mixes with sea water, the total coliform count was found to be 475 and the fecal coliform count was found to be 130. This is indicative of fecal contamination creating a high risk of disease. This dire problem can be attributed to the lack of proper waste water treatment.
During the monsoon season or other periods of heavy rain, the sewage system often floods. Currently, flooding is experienced more frequently due to an increase of garbage clogging and overburdening the sewage system. The clogging of the drains creates conditions ideal for disease vectors to breed. During times of flooding, diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, filaria, viral fever, and brain fever are reported. In a place called Solai Nagar in Puducherry all of the sewage is directed into one canal. This canal has not been desilted in years. An excess of waste has clogged the canal, leaving sewage to stagnate in the roadside drains. The drains inevitably overflow during periods of rain. Reports of untreated waste from a nearby hospital polluting the drains have also been filed. Obviously the open sewage system is a pressing issue. Something must be done immediately to expedite the implementation of a proper sewage system within Puducherry.
The Puducherry Pollution Control Committee (PPCC) has devised a scheme to install an underground drainage system and proper waste water treatment facilities in Puducherry. The models are designed to mimic the Japanese solid waste management system. Currently none of the waste in Puducherry is treated, whereas in Japan, 100% of the waste is treated. There is a 70-80% municipal recycling rate in most parts of Japan. Japan has taken a firm stance on minimizing the amount of waste produced in the nation, in addition to maximizing recycling throughout. The current policy in Japan emphasizes an incineration/waste-to-energy plan as a main means of disposing of municipal solid waste. The citizens of Japan are educated on the benefits of recycling and proper waste disposal from a very young age. Almost everyone in the nation is committed to and enthusiastic about keeping Japan clean.
The amount of waste generated annually in Puducherry is projected to increase greatly by 2020. The PPCC has adopted a four pronged plan to most effectively implement the drainage system. The first phase of this plan consists of planning and organizing along with institution building. During this phase, the PPCC wishes to enhance the collection and transport of waste. The next phase consists of the expansion of the service area. In this phase, plans for the control and the protection from pollution of the dump site are included. The third phase consists of introducing the 3-R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). In addition, social partnerships will be considered and developed. The fourth, and final stage of the PPCC’s plan consists of the total integration of the 3-R’s. In addition, further efforts to educate the citizens on a recycle-oriented and sustainable society, such as the one in Japan, will be made.
Unplanned development of Puducherry has created many environmental problems. These problems have ultimately lowered the standard of living in the city. Amenities that we consider basic, such as clean drinking water, proper drainage facilities for waste, and adequate sewage treatment facilities, are either scarce or non-existent there. There has been a great deal of environmental stress on Puducherry, including increased pollution and the loss of biodiversity. In addition, public health has been risked since there is an improper sewage system. Hopefully the government of Puducherry takes a strong commitment to implementing a closed drainage system. In order for Puducherry to continue to expand and further develop, proper waste treatment must be invested in. It is sad to see such a beautiful city be burdened by the lack of proper sewage infrastructure. Hopefully the Japanese model will serve to help Puducherry reach its full potential as a growing city.
Containing the Oil Spill
BP has discontinued their calculations on the amount of oil exiting the well; they have handed this responsibility to the US government. Just yesterday, this taskforce announced that approximately 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil are flowing into the Gulf per day. On May 27, BP had estimated that anywhere between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels of oil were exiting the well per day. A month before that, the estimate was 5,000 barrels per day. The first estimate, given several days after the start of the spill, was a “mere” 1,000 barrels per day. 50 days after the oil spill, one could only hope that this number would start to decrease… not increase…
By studying the estimates given by BP, you will see that an almost perfectly (positive) linear relationship exists between the time that has elapsed and the magnitude of the flowrate. In fact, a 95% correlation exists.*
Last week, a containment cap was placed on the well to control the amount of oil exiting into the Gulf. The cap can capture 11,000 barrels per day. However, a large amount of oil is still escaping. The containment cap was designed to funnel the oil to a ship on the surface. Another containment system, which uses the pipes of a previously failed attempt to control the leak, directs more oil to an extra vessel. An additional method is supposed to be installed by the end of this month. This method is expected to withstand hurricane conditions.
The containment cap was lowered onto the failed blowout prevented (BOP) valve system on the seabed. The cap was placed on the lower marine riser package (LMRP) section of the BOP. On June 1, the damaged pipe which removes oil from the well, known as the riser, was cut near where it reaches the seabed. Undersea robots were used to cut through the riser close to the LMRP. After the riser was removed, the cap was lowered onto the LMRP, enabling the leaking oil to be funneled to the ship on the surface.
It is difficult to determine whether the cap is effectively working, mainly due to the lack of consensus regarding the magnitude of the spill. Currently, the total volume of oil that has escaped the well has been estimated to be anywhere between 20 million to 45 million gallons. The flowrate of oil leaving the well has fluctuated greatly and rapidly evolved – from an initial estimate of 1,000 barrels/day to a present estimate of 27,500 barrels/day.
Officials warned BP that cutting the riser may worsen the leak by 20%. Ira Leifer, an expert part of the government taskforce to determine the flowrate, believes that installing the containment cap has made the leak worse. Leifer claimed that the pipe is fluxing more than it previously did. BP has not made any claims as to whether the leak has worsened – they have merely claimed that their engineers are working to make the containment cap as efficient as possible.
Let’s say that cutting the riser did worsen the leak by 20%. The latest estimate by BP (approximately 27, 500 barrels/day) was released after the riser was cut. So according to officials, the exit rate of oil would have been approximately 4,580 barrels/day less, if the riser was not removed. However, the containment cap is projected to capture 11,000 barrels/day. Thus, the additional oil spewing out of the well from installing the containment cap is an additional sacrifice the Gulf of Mexico has to take.
However, we do not know if cutting the riser actually worsened the leak – just like the exit flowrate, there is no consensus on this matter either. BP has not made any statements on the efficacy of the cap. Some officials, including Leifer, believe that the cap worsened the spill by significantly more than 20%. The one thing that is certain about this oil spill is the amount of uncertainty it has produced. Oh, and of course, the amount of damage that it has caused, and will continue to cause.
Oil Pools near Barataria Bay on the Louisiana Coast
A permanent solution to the leak must be discovered soon. BP is digging two relief wells by the end of August. BP hopes that these wells will provide a permanent solution to the oil spill; again, it is uncertain whether they will be truly successful.
The spill has killed 11 humans; many birds and marine animals have either been severely injured or killed. A third of the federal waters of the Gulf remain closed to fishing. Admiral Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard described the oil spill as “an insidious enemy that’s attacking our shores.” The oil spill has been called the nation’s worst environmental disaster. President Obama has claimed that if Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, worked for him, Hayward would have been fired for his poor handling of the oil spill.
* Calculated by plotting the estimated flowrate versus the number of days elapsed since the spill started. The estimates released on May 27th and June 10th were given as ranges. For the purpose of obtaining a correlation, the values were averaged to obtain an approximate flowrate of 15,500 barrels/day and 27,500 barrels/day respectively.
News: Algae-eating fish to improve conditions of Taihu Lake
On February 2, the China Daily (Xinhua News Agency) reported that government funds and public donations were put to use in the purchase of 330,000 silver carp fry to help reduce algae in Taihu Lake. Taihu Lake is China’s third largest freshwater body and experienced a choking algal bloom resulting from agricultural runoff (high in nitrogen and phosphorous content) in 2007. Since then, national and local governments and organizations have utilized many methods to improve the lake’s conditions. The use of silver carp to clean the lake began in February 2009.
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