CHENNAI: Can the success of thermal desalination plants in Lakshadweep Island be replicated in Chennai to quench the thirst of the city? Seems so. The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) says there are plans to replicate the technology in a bigger way in Chennai by setting up a 10 MLD plant provided it is economically viable.
Speaking to Express, NIOT director M A Atmanand said a detailed project report is being worked out to establish the plant. “The large scale project should be economically viable. Reverse osmosis technology is a proven one. Thermal desalination project is still under research and in the development stage,” he added.
“The cost of developing water using this technology is high, but in Lakshadweep we don’t have any other option but to go in for thermal desalination,” says Atmanand while rejecting allegations that NIOT was slow in developing the technology on to a large scale. Interestingly, basking in the initial success of the technology in Kavaratti, in Lakshadweep, the Ministry of Earth Sciences wanted to build larger thermal desalination plants and chose Chennai. The city faced its biggest crisis in 2002-03 when water was transported using trains and tankers from far-off places.
The project was initiated under the then director of NIOT S Kathiroli who came out with the world’s first LTTD plant at Kavaratti and the first floating desalination plant of 1 MLD was commissioned in 2006. “It is not only 10 MLD thermal desalination, we can build bigger desalination plant which would release just one per cent more salinity in the disposed water when compared to 50 per cent salinity in the brine released from reverse osmosis desalination plant. This could be eco-friendly besides not affecting the fishing stock.” Atmanand says.
But there are allegations that nine years after of commissioning the first floating desalination plant, NIOT’s plan to build the desalination plant was progressing at a slow pace after Dr Kathiroli’s term as director got over. Atmanand rejects the allegations. While initially, the project was contemplated in 2007 to be commissioned within 24 months after approval, the detailed project report is yet to be prepared, sources reveal. But Atmanand says the proposal to build the 10 MLD desalination plant was taken only a few years ago. “The technology can only be developed if it is economically viable,” he says.