Polymers in Water Purification
India is a vast nation with a large population- three times the size of the United States but one third of its physical size. It is true that providing drinking water to such a large population is an enormous challenge. Although India has made improvements over the past decades in both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems but our large population has severely strained our planned water resources and the result is- rural areas are completely left out and the peri-urban areas get water unfit for drinking
Regardless of improvements in water purification and distribution technologies, water sources are still contaminated with both bio and chemical pollutants. A recent report indicates that over 21% of the country’s diseases are water-related. It is estimated that around 40 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases annually, 1.5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhea alone and 78 million working days are lost due to waterborne diseases each year. The resulting economic burden is estimated at $600 million a year.
One in six people globally live without access to clean drinking water, making this an alarming problem. Drinking water needs to be properly transported in order to avoid wastage and contamination. Over last 50 years, plastic pipes are used to carry water over long distances. Similarly, plastic drippers provide tailored irrigation and distribution channels with plastic lining are used for reducing seepage and to speed up construction. Needless to say, be it packaged drinking water, irrigation drippers, water pipes, water filters, plastics have contributed significantly for providing clean water to the masses.
Water Purification has never been on the high priority list of the Indian Government despite of the fact that the provision of clean drinking water has been given importance in the Constitution of India. It is, however, a major area of focus of the new Government. There has been a prominent contribution from the plastics industry in the objective of providing clean water. In terms of water quality, water can be cleaned using polymer filters, both at industrial or household level. The latest household water purification systems contain high-performance filter membranes made of polymers which provide ultra filtration and remove viruses and bacteria from dirty surface water without the need for electricity, chemicals or any complex technology. These filter membranes are nothing but Polypropylene based non-woven filters, used as filter cartridges in water purification systems. These polymeric cartridges help in the first stage cleaning of the ground water i.e. the removal of harsh grit particles (sand, gravel, cinder, etc.). The polymer raw material used in manufacturing of these filter cartridges is Ultra High melt flow polypropylene, which is 100% imported making it as a loss proposition for the industry & government respectively.
Indigenous innovations have now resulted in products like NOVIS™ from PLUSS Advanced Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and are being produced in the country. This product is a low cost, yet effective alternative to otherwise available imported products. These speciality polymers are used to make the non-woven PP cartridge in the three stage Reverse Osmosis process that one typically sees in a RO filter.
The government has undertaken various programmes to provide safe drinking water to the rural masses. One would argue that the expenditure is huge but it is also true that despite such expenditure lack of safe and secure drinking water continues to be a major hurdle and a national economic burden. Water being a vital resource for human health and an essential input for agriculture, tourism, industry, transport and energy, availability of fresh water could be improved greatly by applying the technological benefits offered by modern polymeric filters.