What if it was possible to filter human waste in a sanitary and eco-friendly way? We have news for you — it is. In the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) in India, 198 million gallons of human waste is treated every day through a process called bioremediation. Not only do the wetlands keep Kolkata sewage-free, they support a fertile aquatic garden and protect the low-lying city from flooding.
As The Better India reports, the EKW is the world’s only fully functional organic sewage management system. What was once was a patchwork of low-lying salt marshes and slow-running rivers is now a vast network of man-made wetlands which are bordered by green embankments.
The “kidneys of Kolkata” are maintained by farmers and fisherman. Each day, the wetlands receive nearly 750 million liters of the city’s waste each day. With the help of sunshine, oxygen, and microbial action, the sewage is organically treated.
How it works
Urban waste is routed through a maze of small inlets, each managed by a fishery cooperative. The cooperatives are in charge of the inflow of the wastewater. After the sewage settles, only the clear top layers of water flow into the shallow wetland.
A parabolic fish gate is in place to separate the wetland water from the wastewater. Its purpose is to prevent fish from swimming into the oxygen-deprived urban waste water. There, they would die.
It takes less than 20 days for nature to do its work. Organic waste, located in the inlets, settles down where it partly decomposes in the warm shallow water. Then, through a series of biological steps, the waste is converted into fish food. Soil bacteria, macro-algae, plant bacteria, and plants themselves all contribute the decomposition of the waste. The ecological processes are accelerated when sunlight penetrates the settled water.
After the process of bioremediation, the purified, nutrient-rich water is channeled into ponds, called bheries, where algae and fish thrive. Some of the water is also used to grow paddy and vegetables on the banks of the wetlands.
In addition to keeping Kolkata sewage-free and providing fertilizer to grow crops, the wetlands act as a natural flood control system. When floods threaten Kolkata, gravitational forces take the discharge eastward of the city, into the wetlands. In a way, the EKW serves as a natural spill basin. This function is essential during the monsoon season when the entire Gangetic delta is at-risk of flooding.
Despite their usefulness, the wetlands are at risk. A voracious appetite for real estate is threatening the fish ponds, where buyers seek to build. To raise awareness about this conundrum and the enormous value of the wetland’s environmental services, former city sanitation engineer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh has dedicated himself to campaigning for the unique ecosystem. Over the past couple of decades, he has developed technology options from the traditional practice of wastewater aquaculture. So far, four other towns have adopted the wastewater designs.
To this day, Ghosh works to preserve the EKW. He says,
“I am still learning how this delicate ecosystem works, how to further refine it, and why some places are better suited than others. I am happy to give any advice or help absolutely free, this is the best system of its kind in the world and could be helping millions of people. If I have failed in one thing it is this; not enough people know about it or are benefiting from it.”
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!
h/t The Better India
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.