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Weed for Wastewater Treatment
October 2013 Sanitation and Wastewater Mirzapur, Bangladesh—An NGO found an innovative, low-cost, and sustainable sanitation solution in the duckweed plant to help treat wastewater produced by Bangladesh’s largest hospital complex.
Ho spit a l Wa st e wat e r Tr eat ment
The Kumudini Welfare Trust Hospital in the town of Mirzapur in the central Bangladeshi district of Tangail is one of the largest hospitals in the country and provides free services to Mirzapur’s estimated 20,000 resident population. The hospital complex, with colleges and schools located within, produces huge amounts of wastewater that has a significant impact on sanitation and health conditions due to the indiscriminate discharge of toxins that contaminate and pollute the environment. It also produces bad odors and is a breeding site for mosquitoes. It generates an accumulated wastewater volume equivalent to that produced by about 3,000 people daily. The hospital’s existing wastewater treatment system has reached its limit and could no longer meet the institution’s wastewater treatment requirements. To address the problem, the Kumudini Welfare Trust teamed up with the Project in Agriculture, Rural Industry Science and Medicine (PRISM-Bangladesh���������������������������� )��������������������������� , to install and operate a dedicated Mirzapur Shobuj Shona (Green Gold) project in the hospital complex. PRISM, a local NGO that promotes local and family enterprises particularly for the poorer sectors of the community, initiated the first hospital waste management system in Bangladesh. Together, they built the world’s first comprehensive duckweed research and development center, which developed the Shobuj Shona wastewater treatment process.
T he ������ Gr e en ����� Gold � P ���� r oje � c� t
The Mirzapur Green Gold project, a field-testing pilot project of PRISM’s Duckweed Research Project introduced the use of duckweed to treat wastewater of the hospital complex and expanded the wastewater treatment facility. Co-funded by the governments of Bangladesh and Netherlands, the new system costs approximately $100,000. Today, the facility is able to improve its wastewater treatment from a conventional system to that of a more advanced tertiary level, treating 125 to 270 cubic meters of sewage per day. Before, the wastewater flow has a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of 600 mg/l (at times exceeding 1,000mg/l) and about 400 to 600 mg/l of total suspended solids (TSS). With the use of duckweed, the new treatment facility is able to generate effluent of 8.2 mg/l of BOD and 7.8 mg/l of TSS. The system has also shown efficient resource recovery, as it generates biogas and composted sludge for energy use and fertilizer. The system also produces high quality duckweed crop as feed supplement for fish and livestock. Treated effluent is reused for irrigation.
An efficient wastewater treatment facility (left) makes good use of the duckweed plant to treat wastewater from the Kumudini Welfare Trust Hospital (right), the largest hospital complex in Bangladesh. Inset: The duckweed, a small floating aquatic plant, is an effective agent in wastewater treatment. Photo Courtesy of PRISM Bangladesh
Three tanks collect wastewater from toilets, kitchens, bathrooms and laboratories within the hospital complex. Lift pumps equipped with float switches transport the wastewater to the 0.25-hectare primary receiving pond. It then flows to an adjacent duckweed-covered lagoon for treatment.
No Ta r i f fs, Ju st I ncome
Aside from offering a low-cost, energy efficient wastewater solution to address the sanitation needs of the hospital complex, Green Gold system has shown efficient resource recovery. These include reuse of treated effluent for irrigation, production of high quality duckweed feed supplement for fish and livestock, generation of biogas for energy use, and use of composted sludge as fertilizer. The system has also proven to be a model for sustainability, churning out more than enough profit to cover capital investment and O&M costs. The system earns an average net profit before taxes of 83,777 Bangladeshi Taka �������������������������������������� (about $1,000) annually. ����������������������� In fact, the system is self-reliant. It does not charge any form of user fees and does not avail any subsidies from the government to sustain its operation.
The Kumudini Welfare Trust Hospital’s wastewater treatment facility is capable of treating 125 to 270 cubic meters of sewage per day. Photo courtesy of PRISM Bangladesh
D uc k we ed Te c h nolog y Syst em
The hospital’s existing wastewater treatment system consists of four facultative lagoons—a series of ponds, each ���������������������������������������������� focused �������������������������������������� on a specific stage of the wastewater treatment process. The hospital’s wastewater flows range from 0.5 liters per second (lps) to 1.5 lps. which easily triples during the monsoon season. The Green Gold Project introduced the duckweed for advanced/tertiary treatment of wastewater as it is effective in nutrient removal/recovery. Duckweed is a small floating aquatic plant that thrives in nitrogen-rich environments, usually abundant throughout the humid tropics. It is capable of producing protein-rich biomass that is commonly used in paddy fields as fertilizer. The ���� u���������������������������������������������������� se of duckweed in wastewater treatment also lessens the growth of mosquito, provides cost recovery measures through aquaculture or other applications, and reduces wastewater odor. The project expanded the existing 1-hectare wastewater treatment system by connecting it to a 0.6-hectare plug flow duckweed wastewater treatment system. Three of the four existing lagoons were converted to fish production tanks, while the fourth became a primary receiving and settling tank.
The use of duckweed in wastewater treatment lessens the growth of mosquito, promotes aquaculture, and reduces wastewater odor. Photo courtesy of PRISM Bangladesh
Agriquatics. 2012. Business Case: No-Fee/No-Tariff Treatment of Hospital Complex Wastewater to an Advanced Tertiary Condition. Jonathan Parkinson (GHK). 2005. Decentralised Domestic Wastewater and Faecal Sludge Management in Bangladesh. United Kingdom-Department for International Development (UK-DFID). p. 13. Masum A. Patwary. 2013. Duckweed-based wastewater treatment and aquaculture: The case of Mirzapur, Bangladesh. Paper submitted to the Conference on Promoting Innovations in Wastewater Management in Asia and the Pacific. Asian Development Bank. Manila, Philippines, 29–31 January 2013
This Country Water Action was written by Masum Patwary (PRISM-Bangladesh) and Robert Domingo (ADB Consultant). ADB Water for All’s Country Water Action series showcases reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken in ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News enewsletter, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.
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