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Treating Sewage with Plants

Neknampur lake serves as a fitting example of how low cost but effective natural techniques can be used to clean city lakes that are choking with pollutants.



Floating treatment wetland at Neknampur lake, near Hyderabad city.

A radical new method is fast emerging as an effective and sustainable solution to increasing pollution in urban lakes. Called floating treatment wetlands (FTW), they are artificial islands with plants that stay afloat on the lake. The plants clean the lake through the hydroponics system, resulting in a cleaner, beautiful lake and an improved habitat for creatures that depend on it. We have already heard of this being successfully implemented in Hauz Khas Lake in Delhi. The latest one to benefit from this treatment method is Neknampur Lake on the outskirts of Hyderabad city.

Inaugurated on February 2, 2018, on World Wetlands Day, the Neknampur FTW has been recognised as the largest of its kind in the country by The India Book of Records. It’s the creation of Dhruvansh, an NGO, that along with the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) and district authorities, has been working to revive the lake since 2016.

Untreated Sewage Pollutes the Lakes:

Ibrahim Bagh river is a 100-acre water body situated in Neknampur village in Rangareddy district of Telangana. It consists of two distinct water bodies–chinna cheruvu (small river), also called Neknampur lake covering 25 acres, and pedda cheruvu (big river) of around 75 acres. While chinna cheruvu has been transformed into a beautiful lake, pedda cheruvu is still used as a garbage dump and is choked with hyacinth.

Aerators to clean the lake.

There were many reasons why the lake was polluted. Untreated sewage from the nearby Alkapur township apartments flows into the lake which was the number one cause. The residents of the surrounding areas used to dump their garbage, too in the lake. “When we sought help from government authorities to clear the garbage, it took them 10 trucks and 15 days to do it. We also found dead bodies of animals and human remains in the lake,” says Madhulika Chowdary, founder of Dhruvansh.

“Diverting sewage is not a solution as you will end up polluting another water body,” she explains. “A sewage treatment plant (STP) is costly to build and maintain and it does not remove pathogens and the metallic content. So, we chose this biological sewage treatment method based on hydroponics technique that cleans the lake by absorbing nutrients dissolved in the water and thereby supporting living species inside the lake.”

What is a Floating Treatment Wetland?

The FTW is an ingenious bamboo raft with its sides made of thermocol blocks and plastic bottles which are chemically inert. A layer of gunny sacking stretches across the raft’s bottom to create a tray that holds a two-centimetre layer of gravel. Saplings have been planted in the soil with their roots reaching into the water.

This 3000 sq. ft. raft supports around 3500 saplings of different varieties. These include wetland plants, mosquito repellents and ornamental plants like cattails, bulrush, citronella, canna, hibiscus, fountain grass, flowering herbs, Tulsi and ashwagandha. The plants absorb the high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the sewage water entering the lake.

The FTW costs a fraction of what a conventional sewage-treatment plant would cost. The first FTW, with 140 saplings, was introduced in May 2017 in a small area of the lake and it showed remarkable results. The team then increased its size to hold 3500 saplings.

Another unique feature of the restoration process is the way water hyacinth is used to clean the lake. Water hyacinth is usually seen as a problem because it chokes water bodies and destroys other aquatic life. “If we can use hyacinth in a creative way, it can play a major role in cleaning the lake by absorbing the pollutants in the sewage. We have cleared 80 percent of the hyacinth in the lake but have let the remaining 20 percent to grow. We are using the cleared weed as an organic manure by mixing it with cow dung to grow plants both in the FTW and in the surroundings,” says Madhulika.

Besides the FTW, Dhruvansh is also using aerators to oxygenate the water. They have also planted more than 5000 shrubs around the lake. The combination of all these measures has had a significant impact on the lake. The biological oxygen demand (BOD) in the water has fallen from 28 to 3.2, nitrates from 27 to 8, phosphates from 7 to 0.5 while dissolved oxygen levels have increased from 0 to 4.5, according to the Telangana pollution control board. “The lake has so much biodiversity, with 178 species of birds, 41 species of reptiles, pythons, mongoose, mammals and it is increasing by the day,” says a jubilant Madhulika.

Clean Lakes Benefit People: 

The lake has not only contributed to the biodiversity and beautification but it has also helped some of the locals earn a living. “This lake was clean long back but deteriorated later due to sewage and other pollutants,” says Suresh who fishes in the lake. “We had released small fish in the lake in the past but they died. Now as the lake is clean, I am planning to grow fish in it again.”

This initiative has gained attention from many volunteers and college students who are now working with the organisation in cleaning the lake and maintaining the plantation. “When I first visited the lake one-and-a-half years ago, the lake was full of sewage and hyacinth. I have seen the lake gradually turn into a beautiful one,” says Vamsi M., a volunteer.

“This has become a tourist place now with many people visiting it. We have many volunteers who work with us every Saturday and Sunday in plantation and in cleaning the lake. We have also conducted many programmes for school children to create awareness about our responsibility towards the ecosystem,” she adds.

“Being a commerce student, I didn’t know anything about the lake and pollutants,” says Vishal, a student from IIMC college in Hyderabad. “After joining the team, I have learnt that sewage water is just a combination of nitrates and phosphates and with the help of FTW that contains wetland plants, those chemicals can be eliminated.”

The initiative has also gained recognition from the government which contributed Rs 5 lakh towards the FTW and Rs 1.8 lakh for cleaning the lake. “We welcome NGOs like Dhruvansh to adopt lakes and work for their restoration,” says T. Chiranjeevulu, HMDA commissioner. “We have sanctioned around Rs 12 lakh for the work and we are very happy with this innovative technique at a minimal cost. We are also planning to start the restoration of 10 other lakes in Hyderabad this year,” he says.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

This article originally appeared on the India Water Portal website.

Mahesh Bacham

Mahesh Bacham is a video journalist who specializes in capturing socially impactful stories of ordinary people. He is a member of 101Reporters, a pan-Indian network of grassroots reporters.

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Diu Smart City Becomes First to Run on 100% Renewable Energy During Daytime

Diu had been importing 73% of its power from Gujarat until last year.



DIU (UT): Diu Smart City has become the first city in India that runs on 100% renewable energy during the daytime, thereby setting a new benchmark for other cities to become clean and green.

Diu had been importing 73% of its power from Gujarat until last year. It has now adopted a two-pronged approach whereby a 9 MW solar park spread over 50 hectares rocky barren land has been developed besides installing solar panels on the rooftops on 79 government buildings thereby generating 1.3 MW annually.

To further enhance its solar capacity, Diu offers its residents a subsidy of Rs 10, 000-50,000 for installing 1-5KW rooftop solar panels.

Diu is saving about 13,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Due to low-cost solar energy, power tariffs have been cut in the residential category by 10% last year and 15% this year.

Other ‘Smart’ Activities in India:

To improve traffic management in Bengaluru Smart City, a prototype of an intelligent traffic management solution is currently being tested in collaboration with the Electronics City Township Authority (ELCITA).

It will provide traffic information that is currently unavailable, and help improve management of commuter traffic. It involves capturing video streams from several cameras and processing them using artificial intelligence so that typical traffic management tasks such as vehicle detection, traffic density estimation and control of traffic lights can be automated for real-time performance.

To revitalise urban public spaces and socially activating the area beside generating economic activity, Jaipur Smart City Ltd (JSCL) has planned to develop night bazaar at Chaura Rasta, in the heart of the Pink city.

The JSCL would register up to 700 vendors who will be allowed to set up stalls, including eateries, between 9 pm and 1 am. The project will provide entertainment, culture and shopping to citizens after office hours.

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President Gives Nod to Ordinance for Death Penalty for Rapists of Children Below 12

There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.



NEW DELHI: President ram Nath Kovind promulgated The Criminal Law amendment ordinance, 2018 to amend Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act to pave way for a death penalty to those found guilty of raping children up to the age of 12 years.

The President’s nod to the ordinance came after the Union Cabinet’s approval yesterday for tightening the law against people involved in rape, following public outcry over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua and Surat and the rape of a girl in Unnao.

“Whereas Parliament is not in session and the President is satisfied that the circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action.

Earlier, the Cabinet on Saturday approved the promulgation of an Ordinance to amend Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 to introduce the death penalty for rape of children younger than 12 years.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

Several political leaders cutting across party lines hailed Centre’s move.

“Now, therefore, in an exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of article 123 of the Constitution, the President is pleased to promulgate the following ordinance,” the gazette notification said.

The ordinance stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years.

The death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years.

The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from the rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

According to the ordinance, in case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convicts “natural life”.

The punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.

Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence.

Gangrape of a girl under 12 years of age will invite punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death, it said.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act stand amended with the promulgation of the ordinance after the approval of the President.

The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial.The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months.

The deadline for the completion of a trial in all rape cases will be two months.

A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.

There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.

It has also been prescribed that a court has to give notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.

Enhancing the powers of the judiciary to provide stringent punishment in rape cases, the Union Cabinet had approved a number of measures, such as strengthening the prosecution, besides setting up new fast-track courts in consultation with the states and high courts concerned,  according to an official.

The National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders.

This data will be regularly shared with the states and the Union territories for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents of sex offenders by the police, the official said.

The present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to the victim will also be extended to all districts in the country.


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DARPAN-PLI, App for Postal Life Insurance Launched

The hand-held devices will ensure improvement in the quality of Postal services being offered in remote rural areas. 



NEW DELHI: Minister of State for Communication Manoj Sinha launched DARPAN-Postal Life Insurance App on April 17 in New Delhi.

The DARPAN-PLI App will help in collection of premium for postal life insurance and rural postal life insurance policies at branch post offices anywhere in India, with online updation of the policies.

Speaking on the occasion, Sinha said, these initiative will help Department of Posts in providing better after-sales service to customers, particularly those living in rural areas of the country.

He said, with a view to achieve total digitisation of postal operations in the country, the department has launched Digital Advancement of Rural Post office for a new India (DARPAN) Project, which aims at connecting all one lakh 29 thousand Rural Branch Post Offices.

The Hand-held devices installed under DARPAN Project will ensure improvement in the quality of Postal services being offered in remote rural areas.

Customers in these areas can now avail the facility of online Core Banking, booking of Registered and Speed Post articles, booking of Money Orders, deposit of Postal Life Insurance and Rural Postal Life Insurance premium through these hand-held devices.

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