Algae culture may hold key to cleaning up city's water bodies


       Algae, the icky green patch found floating on water bodies, may well be the saviour of Cooum river, Chennai. Researchers from the United Kingdom have suggested that the city should explore micro algae culturing to combat pollution in water bodies.

       UK-based researchers participating in the British Council organised Newton Bhabha Researcher Link Workshop on 'Clean water through advanced and affordable materials,' said microalgae culture was a natural and cost-effective waste water treatment process, less explored by governments.

       "It is an alternative to chemical treatment of waste water. Algae can survive on intensely polluted water bodies, which other microbes cannot tolerate. It ingests nitrogen, phosphorus and cabon-dioxide released from pollutants and sediments," said Alla Silkina of Swansea University. She researches on the potential of algal biotechnology for waste remediation.


       Estimates from her research showed that 1 g of algal biomass can ingest around 2.4 g of nitrogen and phosphorus. "Implementing this idea to remediate polluted ponds and lakes of a smaller geographical area is possible," she added. Such treated water will not be potable but can still be used for domestic and agricultural purposes.



       City experts felt that the concept will be tough to incorporate into cleaning the Adyar and Cooum rivers, however, the technique can help as a tertiary step in sewage water treatment process.


       "The retention time of algae will be an issue. In flowing water, it will be difficult because such culturing would work only if a certain density of the biomass is maintained over a particular area," said S. Viswanathan, environment specialist at Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust. According to Silkina, the water should be retained while the alga develops for four to 10 days.



ENVIS CENTRE Newsletter Vol.14, Issue 3, Jul - Sep, 2016
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