Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDI­TO­RIAL -

Texas, Florida, some Caribbean and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries were dev­as­tated in re­cent days by two of the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes recorded in hu­man his­tory. About 100 peo­ple were killed while tens of mil­lions were se­verely af­fected by na­ture’s wrath though the United States Pres­i­dent is still claim­ing that cli­mate change is a Chi­nese hoax and has pulled the US out of the his­toric Paris treaty to curb global warm­ing.

In re­cent years en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have found that the oceans, which help main­tain a del­i­cate bal­ance in na­ture, have been pol­luted to such an ex­tent that about 50% com­prises plas­tic bot­tles, other plas­tic ware and poly­thene thrown by in­sen­si­tive or sense­less peo­ple, in­clud­ing most of us. There are more plas­tic bot­tles than marine species in the oceans, with fish known to be eat­ing plas­tic. When we rel­ish the del­i­cacy of a fish curry or fried fish, we also may be eat­ing a lit­tle plas­tic and giv­ing it to our chil­dren. That may be one of the rea­sons why most of us are fall­ing sick more of­ten.

An­other ma­jor ocean cri­sis is that we pump un­treated sewage into the sea. Now that we have a plant to pro­duce en­ergy from waste, here is a cre­ative way to re­cy­cle our sewage. If we con­vert to what is called “so­lar aquatics” we could get free com­post and even flow­ers for ex­port.

In the Bear River of Nova Sco­tia, res­i­dents have switched to a to­tally dif­fer­ent tac­tic. They ad­dressed their sludge waste by in­stalling a so­lar aquatics treat­ment sys­tem. In a bold move, they placed the end of the city’s sewer pipe in the cen­tre of the town and by do­ing so, it was hoped sewer waste would re­main in the mind for the com­mu­nity. While this setup has not nec­es­sar­ily re­solved all of their sewer and sludge-re­lated is­sues, it cer­tainly has made res­i­dents think more con­sciously about what is hap­pen­ing to their wa­ter and waste.

Ac­cord­ing to Mark Van Zeumeren, for­mer se­nior en­gi­neer with En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign and Man­age­ment, the com­pany re­spon­si­ble for de­sign­ing and in­stalling the Bear River sys­tem, in the past it was not in the peo­ple’s mind­set as to what hap­pened to the wa­ter, what they were do­ing with it. Here, the peo­ple are keen to come down and walk through the sys­tem. They iden­tify with their sewage now. This is their sewage and they have to deal with it.

So­lar aquatics is rad­i­cal in that it em­ploys plants and mi­crobes to pu­rify waste. In­side the green­house in the city of We­ston, Mas­sachusetts, 16 grav­ity-fed tanks brew sewage with the help of float­ing flora. Cel­ery, cherry toma­toes, mint, prim­roses and wa­ter lilies, as well as a few fish and snails ab­sorb con­tam­i­nants.

Phil Henderson, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Eco­log­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing As­so­ci­ates, which owns and op­er­ates the We­ston green­house, shares a few of the ad­van­tages of so­lar aquatics. It pro­duces half or less as much sludge as most in­dus­trial plants. Lo­cal res­i­dents much pre­fer liv­ing next to a green­house than a tra­di­tional waste treat­ment plant, which is gen­er­ally thought to be an eye­sore. It is a great learn­ing tool for stu­dents and the com­mu­nity.

No mat­ter what kind of sewage treat­ment meth­ods we may use to clean up af­ter our­selves, cer­tain prob­lems will un­doubt­edly re­main un­less we de­ter­mine to change our ways. Un­less we change, most as­suredly the ha­bit­ual, daily use of all sorts of chem­i­cals, med­i­ca­tions and other toxic sub­stances in our homes, in­dus­tries and in­sti­tu­tions will con­tinue to bur­den our sew­ers.

Here are a few po­ten­tial ar­eas that may fuel our think­ing about how we could be­come more en­gaged with, and re­spon­si­ble to­ward, waste and waste treat­ment. If we make just one small change, it would go a long way to­ward help­ing us to col­lec­tively “clean up our act”.

Take cau­tion with re­spect to the amount of wa­ter, as well as the clean­ing sup­plies, de­ter­gents and per­sonal-care prod­ucts, you use for car wash­ing, laun­dry, lawn care and per­sonal hy­giene, be­cause they in­tro­duce ad­di­tional ar­eas where con­tam­i­na­tion may oc­cur.

Sri Lanka, sur­rounded by the ocean, needs to en­cour­age young peo­ple es­pe­cially to work cre­atively in find­ing so­lu­tions to ocean pol­lu­tion and other fac­tors that con­trib­ute to cli­mate change. This could be an im­por­tant part of the vi­sion 2025 pro­gramme out­lined last week for a sus­tain­able and eco-friendly de­vel­op­ment strat­egy to build a just, peace­ful and all-in­clu­sive so­ci­ety.

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