Indore based startups’ floating islands are reducing water pollution and restoring water bodies by using floating plants.

“You never know the worth of water until the well runs dry.”

From the breathtaking scenic view of Jammu & Kashmir to the tropical greenery of Kerala, India has been endowed with tremendous natural beauty. Our glorious country is well-known around the world for its colourful festivals, spiritual and natural connection, diverse cultures and cuisines, among other things. However, in recent years India has been faring high in indices indicating the most polluted cities in the world.

The problem of Water Pollution

India is placed at 120th rank amongst 122 countries in the Water Quality Index, with nearly 70% of water being contaminated. – WaterAid

The problem of water pollution is worsening due to unplanned urbanisation, landscape changes, fertilizer runoff from farms and effluent discharge by industries resulting in contamination of surface and groundwater. Water bodies are in pathetic condition in large cities like Bangalore, Chennai, etc. as most of them have dried up or are heavily polluted. A recent case is that of Thamaraikeni Lake in Chennai. It has shrunk in size from 152 acres to just 26 acres primarily due to encroachment activities and over-extraction.

Water pollution is a result of excessive discharge of untreated effluents, encroachment by humans along the banks and improper planning of cities.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the number of polluted river stretches in India has increased from 302 to 351 in two years. Most of these polluted stretches exist in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam. The Yamuna river stretch between Delhi to Etawah in Uttar Pradesh is severely polluted. Such water bodies are unfit for human use like bathing and washing, let alone support aquatic life. They have an unbearable stench, high toxicity, froth formation and even catch fire due to reaction of pollutants. 

Water pollution, if ignored, leads to short and long term damage. However, with the right intent and simple yet innovative solutions, pollution holds tremendous potential as an opportunity. That’s where ventures like ‘Clean Water’ come to the rescue. It was founded by Priyanshu and Murtaza in 2016 with a vision to create sustainable solutions to solve the problems of water scarcity and water pollution. They started it from their hometown Indore with the aim to devise innovatively engineered solutions for addressing water pollution. Initially, they started as a consultancy service for decentralised STPs (Sewage Treatment Plant) and later came up with a product named Floating Island.

A schematic illustration of Floating Islands and Bio-Film, that helps to cleanse polluted water bodies.

How Floating Islands Control Water Pollution

Floating islands work as a boon to rejuvenate water bodies and curtail water pollution. Floating islands are artificial platforms that allow aquatic emergent plants to prosper in water that is usually too deep for them. Their roots circulate through the floating islands and drop into the water, establishing dense columns of roots with lots of surface area.

It works on the principle of controlling the level of nutrients and resultant organisms in the water body. During monsoon the water bodies get enriched with nutrients, resulting in the formation of harmful algae on the surface of the water. This process is known as eutrophication. When placed in eutrophic water, Floating Islands work as a competitor to the harmful algae and clean the water body by absorbing excess harmful nutrients from the water.

The transformation brought about by Clean-Water team at the Police Training College in Indore.

Not only do the plants absorb nutrients and contaminants themselves, but the roots of plants promote microorganism growth—forming a slimy coating of biofilm. Biofilms are eaten by small organisms which are eaten by fish and eventually harvested out of the water by birds and human beings. Floating islands can be made by recycled plastics and they don’t require much maintenance and expenditure.

Recently Priyanshu and his team restored a small pond with floating islands, in a police training campus situated in Indore. For the amazing work, Priyanshu got honoured with ‘Water-Hero-Award’ from the Ministry of Jal Shakti. Clean Water focuses heavily on R&D and innovation. It has made more than 15 types of Islands so far. It makes them in such a way so that people can even grow edible plants on them.

This festive season, let’s have more of Floating islands along with idol immersion. Let’s clean our water bodies instead of polluting them. Image: A Floating Island being deployed at a water site.

Floating islands can easily move around in the water and trap floating trash as well. Their recent floating island can carry up to 1000 Kgs weight, thus making it suitable for rivers having large water flow as well. Until now they have served more than ten cities across 3 states of India. They have a robust network across both online and offline channels.

Challenges in the Journey

The team also had to overcome many challenges in the journey, especially in the initial stages. Because of their niche domain, there were impediments in the initial marketing phase. The inertia of large builders and government organisations who are their main clients leads to major problems for emergent players like Clean Water who have limited resources and operating capital. However, the team is learning and evolving every single day. Like other businesses, the lockdown hit the company very hard. Because of work coming to standstill and changing priorities of the government in the lockdown, the business got impacted.

Aesthetic Floating Islands like above can be installed along with fountains at locations like office and college campuses, auditoriums, townships, etc.

With the team growing along the learning curve, they’ve realised the value of aesthetics along with cleaning and replenishing polluted water bodies. Thus, they’re coming up with Floating Islands in a variety of shapes and sizes that suit the decorative needs of the clients, with some working well in fountains as well. They are working relentlessly to cultivate a promising future, thus providing an example that many big enterprises can imbibe as well.

Priyanshu gives the following message to the readers:
Young and enthusiastic people should work in this sector. There are many problems that can be solved and most importantly, it’s very crucial for our own survival. Water is essential for humans and to restore water bodies, we don’t even have 20 years to turn it around, and we haven’t even really started our work.”

Article by Gaurav Ghauri, Team ulaunch.

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