Posts Tagged ‘soil’


On the sludge management and reuse potential in Bangalore

May 12, 2014

One of the many critical factors affecting productivity in Indian soils is the absence of nutrients such as Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphates. Even Carbon is in short supply as well as micro-nutrients such as Zinc and Boron.  AA substantial part of our artificial fertilizers is imported and we run up quite a huge bill. Fertilizer prices too are shooting up leading to an imbalance in their application. It has been reported for example that Urea which is relatively cheaper is over applied on soils causing more harm than good.

Cut to urban cities. Sewage treatment plants are coming up in large numbers. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board –the utility responsible for sanitation and sewage, will eventually be setting up 25 sewage treatment plants treating nearly 1100 Million Litres Per day of sewage. These plants will mostly be secondary and tertiary treatment plants. Each million litre of sewage generates nearly a Tonne of sludge. Imagine 1100 Tonnes of sludge will be generated in the city of Bangalore alone. This is 120 truckloads of sludge.

There are smaller sewage treatment plants dotting the landscape in apartments and layouts too. These too generate smaller quantities of sludge. Overall this represents a management challenge of large proportions.

Research:  Currently at the GKVK-University of Agricultural Sciences – research work is going on to understand the nutrient value of this sludge. A Ph D student is pursuing her Doctorate and is experimenting on field trials using the sludge as manure. The initial test results show very good amounts of Potassium and Phosphates in the sludge.



Separately sludge is also being picked up from Ecosan toilets. These are source separating composting toilets which segregate urine and solids. The solids are covered with ash after every use and desiccated before application as a fertilizer on soils. Farmers of Kamasamudram and H.D.Kote have such toilets in their homes and are very happy with the fertilizer they get. In fact this compost is priced at Rs 10 a kg.


Sludge sells for upto Rs 10 a kg.

Similarly the landscape of rural India is dotted with pit toilets, more than 130 million of them at the last count. These too accumulate solid sludge and need to be emptied using mechanical systems. They are also found to be rich in Phosphates and Potassium.

All these various forms of sludge will be taken, tested applied on fields and crop productivity tested under expert supervision.

When research and application come together in a spirit of cooperation, it is possible to find solutions for India’s vast water, food and sanitation problems. At the base, this is a nutrient cycle at play. How we scientifically understand and manage it will show us the path to solutions. If every gram of sludge generated in our Sewage Treatment Plants become useful as manure it will partially solve India’s fertilizer needs and eliminate pollution. It will also increase productivity and richness of our soils as well as enhance the livelihood opportunities of farmers.

Recognizing and converting waste to a resource will help thousand of apartments and layouts, small and medium towns and even metropolis to manage their sewage efficiently for reuse and recycling. This would be water wisdom.


Letter from a reader – the thing that makes the world a nice place

April 9, 2013
I have been an ardent reader of your articles which appears every Saturday in The Hindu (Habitat).
I have converted to become a farmer myself after nearly 20 years of Corporate service.  We strongly believe in Organic Farming Practices and Sustainability, which of course, Rain water harvesting is one of major tool. 
In one of our farms extending nearly 20 acres we did dig up some trench and ponds for water to be collected during rain about 18 months ago.  The last two years have been frustrating for us with insufficient rainfall and not able to see results with our effort.  Also we had several people laughing at us and ridiculing our work.
However, as we all know we received good rainfall on one day i e., on 6th morning in the early hours, it was for about one hour and approximately 35 mm of rainfall was recorded.  The result, it transformed the entire area.  There were no major top soil erosion thanks to various trench which cut across the farm.  Two ponds exclusively created to collect water was filled to the brim.  
I have no more words to express than few pictures attached herewith.  I also acknowledge much I was inspired and motivated by writers and activists like you to work in this direction.  I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks on this occasion.  
Looking forward to hear from you.   
Contour trench to recharge rainwater

This land is my land, this land is your land….

March 10, 2013

For a nation fixated on the growth of GDP many have been reminding that the resource base which makes this possible needs stewardship. The soil , the forests , the rivers , the bio-diversity….all need a careful look .