Monday, May 25, 2015

Role of Chemical Engineers in Indian Progress in the Field of Water and Waste Water Engineering!

Among the natural resources essential for sustenance of life on earth, air and water play the most important roles. Though air is the most important resource for life, it is water that has been determining the development of human civilizations on earth. Water   continues to be of prime importance for life and its importance is on an increasing trend as we move on.

When water is in abundance, we normally do not pay much attention to it. But as the population grows with more and more industrialization and human activities, safe water has been becoming a scarce resource for us. 

In the past, we could have lived with simple knowledge about water. But now, knowing more about water is becoming more and more important. Air, water and land constitute the most important environmental issues that concern all human beings on earth now.

As a chemical engineer professionally involved with water and environmental issues, I have been quite fascinated and interested in the topic of water. 

The following are some of the blog articles that I had written where water is the main theme: 

Water and waste water technologies and engineering require multidisciplinary skills and therefore engineers with chemical engineering background are the most suited to get trained and develop as water experts. In fact, most of the reputed water technology firms of the world now are predominantly run by chemical engineers. It would not be so difficult for young chemical engineers to grasp the various aspects of water technology, water usage and application technology, treatment processes for water and waste water, water quality control, equipment designs, pumping, piping and process instrumentation, automation, water treatment chemicals and the like. Since they possess the basic educational skills to understand the wider scope in the practical field, they would be better equipped to make improvements and developments in the field as they gain field experience. However, most of the Indian industries and utilities seldom realize this and chemical engineers are hardly employed by them for water and waste water related jobs.

Water Brought For Use in An Indian Industry

As a result several of the users of water (in India) are not always not so well versed with the various engineering and technological aspects of water. For any technology to advance, the users also need to have fundamental knowledge and understanding.

During my long experience in the Indian industry, I have mostly found conventional engineers with civil, mechanical and electrical or science backgrounds getting associated with jobs related to water and waste water technology and engineering. Though by experience and on the job learning they keep enhancing their knowledge in this field. But most often there are some grey areas in their understanding that they keep making serious errors in decision making that cause much distress to the industry, without any one really realizing! Many Indian industries and utilities keep incurring heavy losses on account of this neglect or lack of understanding!

On the other hand, the developed nations keep advancing in their knowldge in technology and engineering related to water, waste water and pollution control fields. Many progressive companies have realized the potential of chemical engineering that they keep recruting them and providing them the work platforms for proving their creativity and multidisciplinary engineering education. Most of the high technology companies in the world employ large numbers of chemical engineers. That is true for the technology suppliers in the field of water and waste water engineering as well.

As a result of the lack of understanding of the Indian employers about the potentials of chemical engineering training, the employability of chemical engineers kept on reducing. None of the hundreds of new engineering colleges and institutions in India have chemical engineering as a field of study. I had written about the failure of India in promoting the growth of chemical engineering education in the recent years. Chemical engineering curriculum as developed in the western nations has been so devised as a versatile modern engineering stream that the young chemical engineers are equipped to handly any kind of modern engineering jobs. Unfortunately, many academicians and industry leaders (in India) have pretty no understanding about this!

Most of the chemical engineers trained by the IITs and the other reputed colleges in India migrate to the western worlds due to the lack of opportunities in India. Fortunately, the developed nations realize the value of these engineers and do provide them the opportunities to prove their skills. The loss of India is gain for others!

Remember the comments of some writers that appeared in the social media in the recent past. The critics highlighted about some chemical engineers of India from the IITs venturing in to jobs and business ventures that are not even remotely connected to their basic engineering studies! Of course, the Indian industry and the policy makers caused them to shift away from their basic training and be successful in other fields. True, India gained at the cost of some critical field of work!

When I began to write today's blog, my idea was to provide some information to those who might need some good information about water and waste water technologies. I know, my thoughts have shifted from the original.

I realized that it is not so important for me to duplicate the knowledge that is already available and accessible to the public as published in the various internet sites. 

Yet, people who are not so conversant with the subject of water may find it difficult to get the appropriate information using the internet search engines due to their lack of understanding in the key words that they need to use for such purposes.

Therefore, in this article, I attempt to give some important links to some useful websites that provide the much needed water and waste water related information. A click on these linked titles below would take the reader to the pages where more information can be found. Besides, these key words could be used to find more reading materials.

One of the websites that provide much information about water and wastewater, especially for industrial users is the site of M/s.Lenntech BV Netherlands. This company specializing in water and waste water technologies is a business venture started by a group of Dutch chemical engineers in their university campus some two decades ago. Will the Indian universities allow their students to do some thing similar? Never! And that is one of the reasons why India could so far not mature to the status of a developed nation from the perpetual conundrum that keeps it self declared as a developing nation! 

Coming back to the most important information that one can get from the Lenntech site, I find the following interesting and informative:

Various types of pumps, valves, pipes/pipe fittings and other chemical process equipment are used for water treatment and industrial waste water treatment and sewage treatment plants.

The technology of water and waste water treatment plants employ various unit processes and unit operations of chemical engineering. Experienced chemical engineering companies are the developers of many modern water treatment technologies and they put the chemical engineering theories to practice.

With the advancement of human needs and comforts, advanced materials and equipment are getting produced year after year. This in turn burdens the environment and causes air and water pollution. To reverse the bad effects of water pollution, we need to develop new technologies that can offset the water pollution by appropriate water and waste water treatment technologies. 

Waterborne diseases are on the rise now-a-days and it is necessary to know the causes and the remedial measures. There are various microbes that causes problems for drinking water supplies.

Microbes also create problems for industrial water consumers.  But some microorganisms can be effectively used for treating waste waters that are rich in biologically degradable wastes such as municipal sewage and industrial wastewaters containing organic contaminants. Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) are two parameters commonly used to measure the organic contamination of water.

Wastewater treatment plants where BOD treatment is predominantly done using biological processes is commonly called BOD plants. 

Another informative website that I would recommend for those interested in enhancing their water related knowledge is the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Water and wastewater engineering and technology is a vast field which needs to be given importance for any country to progress in a sustainable manner. 

Awareness in about the various aspects of water , in my opinion, should start right from the schools and there should be efforts to enhance this awareness among the populace.

The government of India now has began to take up this issue in a big way. Recently, some understanding has been signed between India and Canada for the exchange of clean water technologies.

But Indian industry and the big and small Indian cities are pretty poor in understanding the importance of water for them. As a result, they tend to neglect this area and keep proceeding as if they were in the 19th century! As a result, Indian water and waste water plant projects take decades to complete! Even when completed, they fail to provide the desired usefulness.

On the other hand, the water technology companies in the private sector in India has been making good progress and many of them are competent to handle any kind of water treatment challenges. Many of them are trying to market water technologies that are developed in the developed nations in India. 

Unfortunately, many of their potential Indian clients do not have the essential skills to realize the benefits of the new technologies or to make use of the available technologies in a knowledgeable manner! 

There exists a wide gap between the knowledge levels of the suppliers and the users! This actually creates a big challenge for the Indian water and waste water technology suppliers.

The knowledge and competency levels of the Indian policy makers seems to be text bookish with no practical experience. This creates the Indian policy makers to copy foreign rules and regulations on water and water pollution control to be imposed on the Indian industry without really understanding the various technological implications. With poor technical understanding, it would be easy for interpreting the rules in any manner the authorities prefer. This poses many challenges to the Indian industry as a whole!

Unless the competency and knowledge levels among the users, suppliers, policy makers and interpreters go hand in hand, this area would remain as a difficult one. 

The Clean Ganga Mission could also misfire just as its earlier version, the Ganga Action Plan in such a scenario!

This has no doubt affected the Indian efforts in improving the environmental developmental issues with regard to water and air. 

Indian companies can take challenges in water and waste water engineering and technologies. There are young Indian engineers who can take such challenges. Unfortunately, Indian technocrats, both in the private and public domains, do not have the managerial confidence to take up the challenges their own! That is precisely due to their lack of comprehensive understanding in this field!

If India still keeps looking to foreign nations for technologies on water and wastewater, it is because of the lack of confidence in its top decision making levels.

It would be interesting to watch the developments in India in this field in the years to come!

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