Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have recently developed a new lab-made enzyme that mimics natural enzymes in effectively degrading toxic chemicals in industrial wastewater in the presence of sunlight. This has the potential to revolutionise water treatment as large quantities of the life-giving liquid can now be recycled.
Wastewater is a huge asset if managed properly. Almost 80 per cent of water supply is recycled into the ecosystem as wastewater, which can pose environmental and health hazards if not managed properly. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), urban India generates 72,368 million litres daily (MLD) of wastewater, of which only 28 per cent is treated and reused. Effective treatment and recycling of wastewater can go a long way in meeting the ever-increasing demand for non-potable water—which is where the lab-made nano-sized enzyme, called nanozymes, can significantly boost water treatment processes. This will also reduce the need for setting up expensive water treatment plants.
The East Kolkata Wetlands—one of the 75 Ramsar sites in India—has been a model wetland where locals have shown the importance of treating the city’s wastewater. They utilise the treated water for pisciculture and agriculture by recovering nutrients, saving Kolkata the cost of constructing and maintaining wastewater treatment plants. While nanozymes were not used there, these catalysts can enhance the process in terms of treated water volumes and the speed of treatment at wetlands as well as at sites where effluent-ridden water is spewed out by industries.
Enzymes are proteins that catalyse biological reactions in living systems. In wastewater, they break down and transform harmful contaminants into benign biodegradable parts. But to produce natural enzymes in large quantities is a problem due to the current production techniques, which are not only time-consuming but also expensive while yielding minuscule amounts. The IISc invention has changed that. Unlike natural enzymes, nanozymes can be produced on an industrial scale at minimal costs and can be stored for up to 75 days at room temperatures, as against their natural counterparts which need -20°C temperature for storage. It is the right time for pollution control boards in states and at the centre to grab this opportunity as it is a significant step towards a water-secure future.