Researching, Writing, and Learning

We have wrapped up our first week in Coimbatore and at Siruthuli and I can’t believe how fast time has gone!

On Wednesday and Thursday we modified the statement of work based on our initial discussions with Vanitha. We also created a work breakdown structure to plan how we will achieve our goals. It’s funny how we still use IBM methods (WBS, SOW, etc) when we are doing a completely different type of project.

Initially, IBM was tasked to create a strategic plan to deal with the water hyacinth problem in the tank. Check out a picture of water hyacinths below.

They look relatively harmless, but they spread around the tank like crazy. The plant sucks up all of the available water and if it spreads all over the surface of the tank, it renders the tank useless.

While we agreed that this was a major issue, we also wanted to take a step back and deal with the larger issue of pollution in the Valunkulam tank. Basically, a lot of sewage is being dumped into the Valunkulam tank without being filtered properly. I was sold on the idea when we visited a reservoir that had men catching fish from a clearly polluted reservoir and selling the fish to customers. While water hyacinths are a major problem, I couldn’t stand the idea that fish from contaminated waters were being sold to customers.


I made a very  rough sketch of the as is process for the tank, that you can find below.

To make matters worse, the hospital that is nearby has its sewage flowing into the Valankulam tank without the use of a separate treatment plant. After talking to some experts, we learned that hospital waste cannot  be treated in the same plant as industrial or agricultural waste. Therefore, the as-is scenario is a major issue.

One alternative that was presented by the Tamil Nadu Department of Public Works can be found below.

As you can see, this still does not really do too much about the hospital waste. So, one initial option that we came up with was building decentralized plants rather than centralized plants. These plants have less capacity to handle waste, but they are cheaper to build and easier to govern. We have done a lot of research and successful decentralized waste water treatment plants (DEWATS as they are called) have been built all over India.

On Tuesday, we are talking to Dr. Rohilla from the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi about their experience with DEWATS. It seems that they have a lot of good information. Putting together a rough sketch, this is what my proposed option would be:

From our research, we would need two decentralized plants to handle all the waste created, as well as a separate wastewater plant to deal with toxic waste from the hospital. The good thing is that decentralized plants are much cheaper than centralized tanks, so the costs would be less.

Does anyone have any experience with dealing with decentralized wastewater treatment plants? None of us are civil engineers, so any help would be appreciated!!


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3 Responses to Researching, Writing, and Learning

  1. Balaji says:

    Hi sakenk,

    Nice awareness blog once again.
    Valunkulam tank causes diseases and health problems due to mosquitoes.
    Sources of Waste waters from Hospitals should be stopped ,Hospitals are to Save peoples .
    But ,here they are the root cause for Pollution, diseases.
    Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.

  2. Lisa says:

    Hey Saken,
    Stumbled upon your blog (thanks, facebook). Re:experience dealing with decentralized wastewater treatment plants- have you tried reaching out to local chapters of Engineers without Borders? I know NYC has an active one and I’m sure they could put you in touch with people in their local chapter who do these type of projects. The people there tend to be a wealth of information. If they aren’t helpful let me know- I could try to put you in touch with some other people who are within this realm.

    Best of luck! Sounds like a great project.


    • sakenk says:

      Hi Lisa! Long time no speak…That’s a great point–I didn’t even know that Engineers Without Borders is an international organization! Let me look into it and see if Coimbatore has a local chapter. If I can’t find it there, I’ll be sure to get in touch with you. Keep reading the blog and comment as often as you would like!!!


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