KOLKATA, 5 FEB: In the wake of climate change leading to a skewed rainfall pattern and contamination of ground and surface water in the country, the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), a unit of Union ministry of earth sciences, has successfully completed a project on desalinating water from deep sea and using it for drinking purposes.
The pilot project was taken up in Lakshadweep and would soon be replicated in other coastal states reeling under drinking water scarcity. The Tamil Nadu chief minister, Mr M Karunanidhi, inaugurated a plant in Minjur last year while two such plants are proposed to be set up soon in the state that faces an acute shortage of drinking water.
However, experts feel there are less chances of it being replicated in West Bengal as its major water consumption is for irrigational use and so a desalination plant may not be cost effective.
Groundwater in 81 blocks of the state is arsenic contaminated while in 49 blocks it is fluoride contaminated. After Cyclone Aila lashed the Sunderbans, large swathes of agricultural land were destroyed by the ingress of saline water.Large parts of Sunderbans still suffer from drinking water scarcity.
Mr LS Rathore, head of the agromet division of the Union ministry of earth sciences, said the project involves pumping out water from deep sea and condensing it to acquire pure water. He said there were several challenges in site selection as water near the coast is contaminated and because of the basic nature of water of the sea, it corrodes the containers that are used to transport it from the sea to the plant.
The NIOT has already commissioned a 1 lakh litre per day desalination plant at Kavaratti Island in Lakshadweep and a 1 million litre per day barge-mounted demonstration Low Temperature Thermal Desalination System (LTTD) plant. The Lakshadweep Administration had approached NIOT to set up similar island-based plants in nine other islands.
Mr Kalyan Rudra, river expert, ruled out the need for such a plant in the state saying no part of the state receives rainfall as less as Tamil Nadu. “Each person’s drinking water consumption per capita in the state is 3 litres. Rainwater harvesting would be much more viable than setting up a desalination plant in the state,” he said.