The Rural Drinking Water Technology Hackathon at IIT Kharagpur showcased cost-effective and simple methods of water purification

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Kharagpur: A team of postgraduate students and research scholars from the School of Water Resources, Jadavpur University (Debdas Chowdhury, Saurabh Kumar Basak and Priyabrata Mandal) emerged winners of the Rural Drinking Water Technology Hackathon organized by the Rural Development Centre (funded by the Design Innovation Centre) of IIT Kharagpur. They advocated the use of rusted nails for the adsorption of arsenic at the minimal cost of Rs 2,000 per household. They also showed the use of the dual media filter for removing arsenic and fluoride from water.

The aim of the Hackathon was to explore cost-effective and innovative solutions to address the challenges related to drinking water problems in rural India. While giving out prizes to the winners, Prof. Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya, Deputy Director, IIT Kharagpur, reminded the teams that besides evolving technologies that were “simple and economically viable”, they also needed to remember that removed pollutants should not go back to the water source/supply.
As many as 13 teams from premier engineering institutes from eastern India participated in the Hackathon sponsored by the Design Innovation Centre at IIT Kharagpur that was set up recently under the government of India’s “National Initiative for Design Innovation”.

The second prize was lifted by Usha Kumari, a Chemical Engineering student of IIT Kharagpur who devised a way to remove arsenic and flouride from water with alumina activated by sulphuric acid.

The third prize was jointly shared by a team from NIT Warangal, which showed how plants can be used for ‘phytoremediation’, and a team from IIEST, Shibpur, which showed how electrocoagulation can be used to remove arsenic from water.

The winning technologies at the Hackathon were discussed at the workshop on ‘Rural Water Quality and Management’ that began on May 14-16 at IIT Kharagpur, held jointly with the University of Edinburgh. The winning teams will have their projects funded by the DIC and can work in association with IIT Kharagpur to further develop their ideas. They also won cash rewards amounting to Rs 60,000.

A team from the University of Edinburgh judged the Hackathon in association with IIT Kharagpur. Prof. Kate Heal of the university said, “I was greatly impressed by the diversity of ideas –from phytoremediation, solutions of rainwater harvesting, to the number of filtration systems. Some of the contestants had also thought about issues like the economy and access to water.” Also present was Prof. Neil Robertson, whose team has been working on photocatalysts.

The Hackathon showcased easy-to-implement technologies that made use of locally available materials like rice husk, biochar, sawdust, iron nails, gravel, the ubiquitous ‘matka’ or clay water pot. Prof. Somnath Ghosal of the Rural Development Centre of IIT Kharagpur, who coordinated the Hackathon said, “We had about 30 applications out of which 13 were shortlisted by the jury.” The momentum set by the Hackathon will continue with the International Workshop on Rural Water Quality and Management jointly held by the University of Edinburgh and IIT Kharagpur. The workshop will lead to joint studies into issues such as water treatment, water contamination, diffuse pollution, water-food nexus, waste water management, eco-system linkages and also look into the role of local communities in water management.