Plants Purify Industrial Wastewater: Drinking Water Through Constructed Wetlands

Bangladesh is home to the world's largest river delta, the Ganges Delta. A total of more than 230 rivers crisscross the country. There is certainly more than enough water - and yet Bangladeshis suffers from an acute shortage of drinking water. 

Tanneries, dye works and rubber factories pollute the waters with heavy metals such as arsenic, nickel and lead. Twenty million people are forced to use poisoned water every day. Most of their well water is contaminated with heavy metals. As a result, many wells have become virtually useless as a source of drinking water due to their high levels of environmental contamination. Whether the remaining wells actually contain safe water often only becomes apparent years later.

Despite these problems, how can the drinking water supply for almost 165 million people be made possible - and is such a thing even possible without the use of complex and costly technologies?

Four researchers from the University of Asia Pacific and Dhaka University have now succeeded in developing a modern wastewater treatment plant from simple and organic materials such as sand and coconut fiber. Professor Tanveer Saeeed, Dr. Nehreen Majed, Md. Kawser Alam, Dr. Md Jihad Miah were even able to filter dangerous heavy metals from the leachate of industrial waste and obtain safe drinking water.  

It's a system that works, without high operating costs, a complex setup or fossil fuels, and is located as an experimental plant on the campus of the University of Asia Pacific in Dhaka.
For their project, the researchers used reeds and vetiver, a sweet grass which is found especially in the tropical regions of Asia. These plants are organically degradable and can then be used as biomass after several weeks of use.