A damp squib

Published: Monday 31 October 2005

Water Asia Organised by Inter-Ads Limited, New Delhi September 13-15 New Delhi

Technology surely has a big role in helping people cope with wastewater related problems. Viewed from that perspective, the exhibition under review seems extremely pertinent. The household and community level water treatment segment was the biggest business draw at the event. Many Indian and international players (most of them manufacturers of reverse osmosis (ro) and ultra filtration (uf) based treatment systems and its components) were in attendance, on the look out for partners. Sadly though, the section lacked innovation. For instance, one of the inherent drawbacks of ro systems is wastage of raw water input -- sometimes even as high as 50 per cent. Going by this exhibition, there seems to have been no attempt to correct this lacuna.

Many international companies seemed to be only interested in making money from water -- or "making money from air," as an international company's advertisement proclaimed. But there were interesting exhibits. Among them was the arsenic filter manufactured by rural artisans in West Bengal. The filter was on show at the Kolkata-based All India Institute of Public Health's stall.

Desalination projects were also a big attraction. For good reason: many coastal states in India have jumped onto the desalination bandwagon and the area is one of lucrative business.

Industrial wastewater treatment was the next biggest draw. One exhibit stood out here: a membrane bioreactor with facilities for all water treatment processes -- aeration, clarification, filtration and chlorination -- within a single tank. The exhibition also showcased kits to check water quality. But none could check biochemical oxygen demand instantly -- lab tests take 3 days. There were also no systems to measure flow in open silted storm water drains (like those that carry sewage in Delhi). And, if you were on the look out for water efficient gadgets -- toilet flushes, dual flush, showerheads or dishwashers -- Water Asia was not for you.

With limited innovations on show, the event was far behind in meeting the objective set by its organisers: "A meeting platform for decision-makers on the lookout for innovative solutions." But who cares. As Rajan Sharma, managing director, of the New Delhi-based Inter Ads -- the chief organiser of the event -- put it, "Water Asia succeeded in bringing together companies and accelerating the formation of partnerships".

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