From pollutant to pulp

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Young inventor Prasan Warnakula, a 12th Grade student of Joseph Vaz College, Wennappuwa brought honour to Sri Lanka winning second place in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

The World Water Week in Stockholm, a global conference focusing on big water issues and practical solutions attracts experts, opinion leaders, and decision-makers from every corner of the globe. Parallel to the event, a competition is held to recognize innovative projects that contribute to the water conservation. The Stockholm Junior Water Prize was introduced 15 years ago to encourage youth participation.

Prasan receiving his award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

“I am happy to receive this award for my project,” said an elated Prasan who had just returned from Stockholm after receiving his Diploma from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

Prasan’s project came in for high praise at the ceremony. “This year’s diploma of excellence is awarded to a project that reflects a refreshing new way of systems thinking that is highly needed for future sustainability.

The jury was impressed by the independent nature of the investigation and especially the innovative approach to conducting the experiments using equipment adapted from items readily available in the home environment. The principle of this detailed project is inspired by nature and will soon be applied in a much larger context: a real world example of industrial symbiosis in a developing country”.

Pasan’s idea was to use industrial waste water from the textile industry to make recycled paper. A large volume of water is consumed in the textile finishing process with several chemicals used in dyes for colouring the clothes.

This waste water has to be treated to remove the chemicals before it is released to the environment and utilizes a compound called Alum (Aluminium sulphate) which reacting with the chemical particles in the water makes a heavy compound which can be separated from the water. This same alum is used for the paper recycling process. Prasan has investigated the possibility of integrating paper recycling with chemical treatment of wastewater.

“I’ve got this idea when I visited a textile dying plant and also a paper recycling plant soon after my O’Ls. Seeing the amount of waste water and after realising the same chemical is being used in both processes, this idea struck me and I worked to test it,” Prasan said. Prasan’s father works in the waste water treatment field and he had thus developed a keen interest in it from a young age. Prasan has used locally available tools for his research which also impressed the jury.

Prasan was selected for the Stockholm Junior Water prize, through a competition organized annually by the Community Led Environmental Awareness Network (CLEAN) managed by Industrial Solutions Lanka (ISL) and held under the guidance of the Ministry of Education. Prasan had earlier entered the National Inventors Competition with his invention of a coal iron that could regulate heat.

He was among the final 28 selected to participate in the World Water Week held from August 19th to 25th in Sweden along with contestants from Australia, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Korea, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA. The first prize was won by the USA for an innovative idea of using mobile phones to estimate water pollution in the field.

Managing Director Community Led Environmental Awareness Network (CLEAN) Anura Vidanagamage who organized the national competition said Sri Lanka had been taking part in the competition since 2006 and had won second place in 2006 and 2008 –a proud achievement testifying to the talents of Sri Lankan youth.

Leading garment exporter Brandix plans to implement Prasan’s novel idea as a pilot project soon.
For more details about next year’s competition email info@isl.lk.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110918/Magazine/sundaytimesmagazine_04.html

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