Royal Couple visits Dutch-Indian water treatment project during state visit

14 October 2019

Today King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visited water treatment project LOTUS HR at the Barapullah Drain in India. Researchers from The Netherlands and India are collaborating on a high-tech, but low-cost and robust solution. Their water treatment and reuse system meets multiple objectives – and is applicable elsewhere in the world. ‘It inspires others’, says programme leader Merle de Kreuk, ‘which is really satisfying.’

Current water treatment systems in India are centrally organised and treat only 30-40 percent of the wastewater produced. At the same time there are major water shortages, especially in cities. “Our project aims solve these two problems at once”, says De Kreuk, “by looking at the issues more holistically. It aims to treat water locally, in places where there is a supply of wastewater as well as a demand for clean water.”

The programme is centred around a pilot facility in Delhi. The water infrastructure of this metropolis was organised around open stormwater drains. Nowadays, these drains are often used for municipal and industrial discharges, and clogged with solid waste. Heavy rainfall causes them to overflow. At the same time Delhi has severe water shortages, while it uses clean drinking water to irrigate its parks. “We saw a lot of areas for improvement”, says De Kreuk.

Wider approach

Science collaboration between the Netherlands and India started over three decades ago. Why India? “India invests heavily in research and innovation”, answers Berry Bonenkamp, senior policy officer and coordinator for the Netherlands-India collaboration at NWO. “It is a hotspot for high-tech innovation. And it focuses on themes like water, energy, health, agriculture and sustainability – areas in which The Netherlands has a strong reputation. We have collaborative projects in all of these areas.”

In LOTUS-HR, like in all other collaborative projects, the Netherlands and India are equal partners. The programme is supported by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Indian government. “Each contributes substantially in terms of both finances and science”, Bonenkamp emphasizes. “Partners are selected based on their excellence and the strength of their disciplines.”

Until about three years ago, the two countries collaborated through separate bilateral projects. With LOTUS-HR, NWO and DBT have taken a wider approach, working through a larger, public-private consortium. Bonenkamp: “LOTUS-HR is unique. It serves as our flagship collaboration.”

Dutch and Indian researchers at the Barapullah DrainDutch and Indian researchers at the Barapullah Drain

Technology Summit

Another special aspect is the interdisciplinary approach: science and technology are coupled with social science and governance. “This will ensure that this programme will result in concrete applications that are useful at the local level”, says Bonenkamp, “as well as affordable, scalable and applicable in other regions.” This is central to all bilateral programmes funded by NWO. In 2019, NWO’s bilateral programmes with India, Brazil, China, Indonesia and South Africa became part of the Merian Fund, a programme focusing on impact-oriented, interdisciplinary research related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visited the test site. Their visits marks the second phase of the water treatment project. On Tuesday 15 October the Royal Couple attend the India-Netherlands Technology Summit in Delhi. The event brings together knowledge institutes and companies from both countries. The Netherlands are partner country during this 25th edition of the Summit.

Text: Nienke Beintema

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Source: NWO