Bioremediation ensures clean water - Analog forestry and organic farming - A presentation from the South Asia Conference on "Outstanding Organic Agriculture Techniques", Bangalore organised by OFAI (2009)

Article and Image courtesy: Organic Farming Association of India
Author: Kamal Melwani


This presentation on Bioremediation by Kamal Melwani, Neo Synthesis Research Centre, Sri Lanka from the conference on Outstanding Organic Agriculture Techniques held during September 2009 at Bangalore deals with the use of natural processes to breakdown hazardous substances into less toxic substances. The impact of modern agriculture on the immediate environment specifically on ground and surface water resources has been negative. Bioremediation is the use of natural processes to breakdown hazardous substances into less toxic compounds. It includes microbial remediation, phytoremediation and the use of plants. 

The presentation bases its findings on an empirical study conducted in Kalpitiya Peninsula in North West Sri Lanka. The groundwater quality in the peninsula was good until massive amounts of inorganic fertilizer and chemical pesticides began to be used in agriculture. In 2001, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board in collaboration with NSRC experimented with the use of bioremediation to reduce concentrations of nitrates and nitrites in groundwater. The pilot initiative involved the restoration of the vegetation in the microwatershed around the drinking water well. Dense planting was done around the well with deep rooted native trees forming a ‘root mat’ below the surface to uptake the contaminants.

Piezometers were established in the vegetation root mat around the model well. Water from the model well, piezometers and two control wells located on either side of the demonstration plot was tested monthly to assess the physical and chemical properties. The results indicate –

  • Downward trend in nitrate concentration in piezometers over time.
  • Continuous upward trend in nitrate concentration over time in water from control well.

The study highlights bioremediation as a self sustaining, simple and clean technology easily adopted by the community. It is affordable, requires minimum investment and no external energy input.

The Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI), National Center of Organic Farming (NCOF) and the Third World Network, Malaysia, organised the conference on Outstanding Organic Agriculture Techniques at Bangalore, Karnataka on 10th and 11th September 2009. The conference was targeted at organic farmers, agricultural scientists interested in or working on organic farming and NGOs involved in a sustainable agriculture outreach programme. The conference was designed as a knowledge-sharing between outstanding organic farming practitioners from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan.