Tackling pathogens, the organic way
Chennai: As Chennai limps back to normalcy after the devastating floods, one area of concern is the resultant residue of rainwater, surface water and sewage that has been left behind and how to clean up the entire mess.
With many public and private spaces being exposed to sewage-mixed water, there is an urgent need for precaution to counteract this contamination. However, the cheapest and most commonly used remedy is chlorine or bleaching powder, which is not just enough and has its own negative effects, say organic farmers. Till date, Chennai corporation has reportedly managed to procure as much as 98 tonnes of chlorine to sanitise the city.
Eco-Pro which recently conducted a workshop to learn about Effective Microorganisms (EM) solutions also spoke about how they can be used to clean up sewage-contaminated surfaces, both indoors and outdoors. Despite chlorine and other general disinfectants, killing all microorganisms which pose a risk to human health, is even more concerning. “While it might be essential to clean water storage tanks and sumps with a strong disinfectant such as this, it is absolutely unnecessary for cleaning all other surfaces.” said Parthasarathy V. M., member of organic farmers market.
‘Bleaching powder’ or ‘bleach’ is the common name for Calcium Hypochlorite and the strong smell of this powder is from chlorine. Short exposure to a high dosage or prolonged exposure to a low dosage of chlorine can be highly corrosive to the respiratory and the digestive tracts and the skin too. “Children are the ones who are the most vulnerable to this”, said Parthasarathy. Chlorine and other chemical disinfectants also indiscriminately kill all microorganisms, not only those that cause diseases.
So organic farmers have come up with an alternative known as the ‘Effective Microorganisms’ (EM) which is a mixture of three symbiotic and highly beneficial organisms, which are not only harmless to humans, but also contribute to the control of pathogens. “EM is a probiotic conducive to productive and healthy life, used in farming, animal care, aquaculture, treatment of wastewater and of waste, and hygiene.”
The mixture contains lactobacilli (as in curd), yeast (as used for bread and various doughs), and phototrophic bacteria (sometimes in pickles and cheeses). In India, only a Kolkata-based company manufactures it.
One such farmer, Narayana Reddy, who has been using the beneficial effects of EM for more than a decade now says, “I use EM solution myself and over 500 farmers in my area also use it to soak all our seeds before sowing and it has proved beneficial”. Farmers in Erode District of Tamil Nadu in South India, are regularly using EM preparations for soil treatment to check root-rots as do the sugarcane growers in Sivaganga District, Tamil Nadu. Several village panchayats in Tamil Nadu are also using EM solutions for sanitation requirements.
Meanwhile, Sangeetha Sriram, an activist, also vouched for EM solution saying that she found it as one of the safest methods to treat wastes. “ Not only can this be used outdoors but I have used it indoors as well for multiple purposes.” Post floods, Adyar, Chetpet, Besant Nagar and Kodambakkam are already making maximum use of this solution.
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