Bhabha Atomic Research Centre – Solving India’s Water Crisis

The taste of water was the main determinant of purity in ancient world. The water systems developed by the Greeks and Romans were well known. Evolution led to various techniques to purify water and control water borne diseases. With evolution even the problems related to pure drinking water also changed. In the early days there was not much scarcity of water, but today as per United Nations over 1.1 billion people are living without safe drinking water. India which is soon going to become the world’s most populous country is facing an unprecedented water crisis. The country has a highly seasonal pattern of rainfall, with 50% of precipitation falling in just 15 days and over 90% of river flows in just four months. More than 10 states are facing severe drought due to two years of insufficient rainfall. Water is now being transported through trains to address the crisis.
Not just unavailability of water, there are about 40 million people (over 75% are children) who are affected by water borne diseases every year. Approximately six million children below 14 years of age suffer from fluorosis due to fluoride contamination in water. Arsenic is another dangerous contaminant in ground water putting 10 million Indians at risk. Bacteriological contamination, which leads to diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis etc., is at alert level in India. Contamination due to Iron, hardness and salinity in water are other major concerns. It has been estimated that medical expenditure on water borne diseases is Rs. 2400 crores annually.
In this situation water conservation and harvesting at a massive scale has become the need of the hour. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has been engaged in research and development on various aspects of desalination and water purification technologies. It has a holistic approach to deal with the water problem which includes seawater desalination, brackish water desalination, water purification, water reuse, rain water harvesting and water supply schemes. Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd suggests that water is considered potable when the total dissolved solids is below 500 mg/L. Seawater, brackish water, waste water and fresh water have different levels of salinity.
Desalination is a process where pure water is recovered from saline water with different forms of energy. As per BARC, desalination would become inevitable by 2025 to meet the drinking water demand of the people. The nuclear power complex at Kalpakkam about 50 kms from Chennai has the world’s largest sea water hybrid desalination plant. There are two main commercial desalination technologies based on thermal and membrane processes. In the thermal process, evaporated sea water at above atmospheric pressure is led to a lower pressure unit which releases vapour that is condensed to get potable water. While in the membrane process saline water is forced through a semi-permeable polyamide membrane which produces potable water. These plants can produce thousands of litres every day which can meet the demand and supply deficiency.
BARC has also developed a desalination system based on the membrane process with help of solar power. This solar powered RO unit can become a game-changer in the rural areas. In the unit, the feed water is passed through the membrane and can operate 9-10 hours on a sunny day. One unit can cater to drinking and cooking requirements of 3-4 households at a average rate of 5 litres per person per day.
With these innovations, BARC is showing the way to the government and corporations on how we can address the water crisis in the years to come. Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd acknowledges the great work of BARC and hopes that India would be able to find more solutions regarding the water crisis.
By – Rahul Choudhury
Media & Communications – Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

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