Clean water for developing countries
What does clean water for your home mean to you? Is it something you take for granted or something you can only dream about? In poorer regions of the world, many clean water technologies are simply not affordable. Freshwater scientist Nihar Ranjan Samal is familiar with the problem from his native region of East India. He is working successfully on innovative solutions.
Nihar Samal is very familiar with the world’s water bodies : during his first research visit to Germany, the limnologist – in plain English: someone who studies bodies of freshwater – studied Lake Constance. Four years later, he analysed the urban lakes of the Indian metropolis of Calcutta. He is currently studying the reservoir that supplies New York City’s drinking water and attempting to discover what influence climate change has on water pollution. In all his research, Nihar Samal focuses on one goal: he wants to help preserve water as a safe and reliable resource. That is why he develops pioneering technologies to combat water pollution and work towards sustainable water management – especially in developing countries.
In Nihar Samal’s home region of East India, it is predominantly arsenic, iron and fluoride that are polluting the groundwater, lakes and rivers. ‘The terrible thing is that people use that water for drinking and for irrigating their fields,’ Nihar Samal, who now works at the National Institute of Technology Durgapur in East India, explains. That is why it is crucial that scientists find inexpensive ways of ensuring a clean and safe supply of water, especially for poor rural regions.
Award for water models
German environmental scientists have come up with numerous ideas for how to solve the problem. ‘That is why I wanted to do my research in Germany,’ says Nihar Samal. He had a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to attend the Limnological Institute at Constance University in 2004 as a PhD student. There he developed a model for Lake Constance that can predict the degree of pollution from temperature data about the water. His time in Constance was the limnologist’s first longer trip aboard – it would not be his last.
In 2009, Nihar Samal received the German Research Ministry’s Green Talents Award. Over 150 young scientists around the world working on sustainable technologies competed for the award. Nihar Samal won one of the 15 sought-after prizes. The young researcher’s numerous publications and prizes attracted the jury’s attention. At the time, Nihar Samal was working mainly on how to treat freshwater and keep it clean.
Worldwide action against water pollution
‘The award really spurred me on,’ says Nihar Samal, born in 1975. After that, he was able to send five of his students to Germany with a research grant. He himself came back for three months in 2009, established some more contacts in academia and industry and took part in an international conference. He then developed cooperation ventures with universities in Viet Nam and Kenya. ‘It is very important that we share our knowledge with all developing countries,’ says the dedicated researcher. ‘That is the only way we will be able to develop clean water concepts that are also appropriate for the poorest regions of the world.’