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Message on World Environment Day: Beat Plastic Pollution

Dr. Arun S. Ninawe

International Environment Day is celebrated on 5th June. This year the theme focuses the attention particularly on pressing environmental concern to “Beat Plastic Pollution”. It is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. The theme invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and our own health. Although plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic with severe environmental consequences. It is estimated that each year over 500 billion plastic bags are used world-wide and nearly 8 billion tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean. Now it is high time to awaken to live in harmony with nature as various anthropogenic activities are leading to pollution and damages the environment with great concern. A number of Indian states have already banned the use of plastic bags made of low grade polythene as they are known for the main cause for environmental pollution.

Bioremediation is a potential technique that uses living organisms to degrade or transform contaminants into their less toxic forms. It is based on the existence of microorganisms with capacity to enzymatically attack the compounds. The strategies can be applied in situ or ex situ, depending on the site in which they will be applied. The variety of techniques that has been developed in the past and some of these techniques are natural attenuation, bio-augmentation, bio-stimulation, bio-sorption, composting and bioleaching represents emerging green technology have great advantage of being cost effective when compared to the traditional remediation methods due to the use of indigenous microorganisms with a versatile metabolism.

Prof. A. M. Chakrabarty has discovered a method for genetic cross-linking that fixed all four plasmid genes in place and produced a new, stable, bacterial species (now called Pseudomonas putida) capable of consuming oil one or two orders of magnitude faster than the previous four strains of oil-eating microbes. The new microbe, which Chakrabarty called “multiplasmid hydrocarbon-degrading Pseudomonas”, could digest about two-thirds of the hydrocarbons that would be found in a typical oil spill and can be effective used in oceans for reducing the effect of oil spillages.

The Department of Biotechnology has given serious attention in addressing research on supporting bio-toilet technologies in Schools and demonstrating technologies for sustainable utilization of solid waste management. The participation has been a great success through Swachh Bharat Abhiyan with the initiatives on reinventing the toilet challenge, setting up bio-toilets in schools, mission innovation on clean energy, development and demonstration of technologies for sustainable utilization of municipal solid waste for cleaner and pollution free environment as well as generation of the energy from the waste. DBT has been contributing to clean up Indian rivers with the initiatives to implement novel technologies for cleaning up of the Barapullah canal in Delhi with Dutch collaboration. It also includes setting up laboratories at the drain site and supporting technologies for bio-remediation and phyto-remediation.

Author profile:
photo Dr. Arun S. Ninawe,
Advisor,
Department of Biotechnology
Ministry of Science and Technology