Department of Geology and Geochemistry, Earth
Sciences Centre, Stockholm University:
Postal address: Institutionen för
geologi och geokemi, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8
C, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden Visiting address: Frescati University Campus, Earth Sciences
Center, House R, 4th floor Web page: http://www.geo.su.se/geology/
Contact person: Professor Alaisdair Skelton, Head of department, phone: +46 (0)8 16 47 50
Research related to South Asia:
• Professor Alasdair
Skelton has been involved in several research project related
to India. He has collaborated with Dr. Chandan
Mohanta at the Indian
Institute of Technology, IIT, in Guwahati, India (read
SASNET’s report from a visit to Dr. Mohanta’s department
at IIT Guwahati, November
The project deals with prediction of earthquakes, and is called ”Monitoring
the effect of seismic activity on groundwater chemistry in NE India”.
It received a three-years Swedish Research
Links grant from Sida
and the Swedish Research Council in November 2005. The project aimed at
finding means of accurately predicting earthquakes by studying the seismic
activities in North East India, an extremely vulnerable area where a
major earthquake is expected to hit the region in the near future.
• For several years, Dr
Joyanto Routh worked
in the Section for Biogeochemistry. This is an interdisciplinary
science combining the disciplines of microbiology and geology to interpret
the intricate traces left behind by living organisms in sedimentary rocks
from earlier stages of our planet’s history. Many environmental
problems of today are related to biogeochemistry. Microbes acting in
waste material either accentuate them or microbes can be used in measures
used to lower or eliminate pollution problems. At the section of Biogeochemistry
research projects in paleo- as well as recent biogeochemistry have been carried
Dr. Routh is
research on Arsenic mobilization
in the environment.
Since the onset of the green revolution during 1970’s in south-east
Asia, increased paddy cultivation and drinking water supply necessitated
the use of groundwater in large quantities. Since then, groundwater
development has increased multifold over the past three decades to sustain
the need of groundwater for irrigation and safe drinking water. Unfortunately,
these groundwaters have high arsenic (As) levels, which have resulted
in a severe environmental catastrophe. The first reports on the clinical
manifestations of As toxicity in the Bengal Delta Plain (BDP) region
(Bangladesh and India) turned up around 1978, and thereafter, chronic
As poisoning cases were reported in 1982-83. Today the problem is very
critical and over 70 million people in Bangladesh and India are drinking
groundwater orders of magnitude higher then the WHO specified limits
for As (10 ppb).
At Stockholm University, Dr. Routh has been involved in the research project Arsenic in the Bengal Delta Plain Groundwaters in West Bengal (India)
– Genesis and Mitigation Aspects: An interdisciplinary research
proposal for investigating arsenic contamination in groundwater and
remediation strategies, which was given a first Sida/SAREC planning
project in 2002. The project was carried out in collaboration with the
Groundwater Arsenic Research Group, GARG, Dept.
of Land and Water Resources Engineering, Kungl Tekniska Högskolan,
In November 2004 he was again given a Sida/SAREC grant for a period of
two years for this project now renamed ”In
situ remediation of arsenic rich groundwater in Ambikanagar, West Bengal
(India)”. More information.
In June 2005 Dr. Routh also received SEK 750 000 as a grant for two years
from FORMAS research council for the same project (read the abstract, in Swedish), and in November 2005
he got a one-year research grant from Sida/SAREC for a project
Arsenite oxidation: Implications on arsenic cycling in aquifer system”. More
information on Sida funded South Asia related research projects in 2005.
Dr. Routh has continued to do research on arsenic rich groundwater in West Bengal. The main collaboration partner on the Indian side is Dr S P Sinha Ray from the Centre for Ground Water Studies in Kolkata. He is a leading expert on arsenic remediation in the country. He is also one of the members of the Arsenic Task Force – a special group of scientists, academics, and government officials constituted by the Government of West Bengal (India) to oversee the arsenic problem in the state.
The project has was launched in West Bengal in 2007, and focuses on treating the arsenic contaminated groundwater. The plant treats ca. 200 cubic metres of water daily and provides As-free groundwater to the local villagers.
In August 2008, SASNET awarded a guest lecture programme grant to Dr. Joyanto Routh (besides a planning grant for a new research project, see below). He was given SEK 20 000 in order to invite Dr. Ray from Kolkata to deliver a series of lectures on arsenic related issues in groundwater in Sweden. Dr Ray was co-invited by the Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU) in Stockholm; the Hydrology Section at Uppsala University; and the Division of Land and Water Resources Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm to give lectures at these institutions as well. More information about the SASNET planning grants 2008.
In August 2004 Routh was awarded a SASNET planning grant
for a new project on ”Environmental and long-term
pitfalls of human induced changes in lake ecosystems: A case study of
the Kumaun Lakes in NE India”. See
the full list of SASNET Planning grants recipients.
The project was carried out in collaboration with Dr. G J Chakrapani, Indian
Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, and focused on the environmental deterioration
of lakes in the Kumaun valley in northeast India. Their intent was to set up
an interdisciplinary study investigating the changes in the watershed
over the last 200 years, and the remedial measures that can be considered
to ameliorate the situation.
In October 2004, Joyantho Routh received SEK 600 000 as a Swedish Research
Links three-years grant (Asian–Swedish research partnership programme)
by Sida and the Swedish Research Council for this project now renamed ”Sedimentary
record of human-induced environmental changes and affects in the Kumaun
Lakes, India”, for the period 2005-07. More
Another project relates toPichavaram
Mangrove forest in South East India. In June 2005 Dr. Routh received SEK 675 000 as a two-years
grant from the research council FORMAS for this project, dealing with
nutritional and polluting sources and sedimentations; biogeochemical processes
and effects in an undisturbed ecosystem. The project was carried out in collaboration with Associate Professor A.L. Ramanathan at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.
A PhD student from India, Rajesh Ranjan from JNU worked as an exchange student in Stockholm with Dr. Routh on this project. Mr. Ranjan is expected to defend his doctoral dissertation in 2009.
In November 2007, Dr. Joyanto Routh received SEK 1.2 million as a three years grant (2008-10) from Sida's
Developing Country Research Council (U-landsforskningsrådet) for a research project titled ”High-Resolution Lacustrine Records from the Thar Desert Playas
in northwestern India: Reconstructing Regional Paleoclimate and Monsoon Patterns”. More information about the 2007 Sida grants.
The project was carried out in collaboration with Prof. Barbara Wohlfarth at the same department, and Prof. and Dr. Stefano Bernasconi at the Department of Earth Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich. The main collaboration partner on the South Asian side were Prof. Anil Gupta from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur.
Dr Narender Meena at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology also collaborates in this project. Project abstract: The Indian Ocean Monsoon (IOM) has a critical role in the global climate, hydrological and energy cycles. The monsoons have repeatedly varied over time and affected the socio-economic life in the region. We will test the hypotheses: 1) strong southwest winds mean higher precipitation on land in summer, and 2) small amplitude changes in North Atlantic during the Holocene are accompanied by variations in the terrestrial record of IOM. Our goal is to reconstruct a high-resolution late-glacial to near-modern paleoclimatic record based on 14C ages, and geochemical proxies (biomarkers, isotopes, paleomagnetism, and elemental ratios). The proxies will relate IOM variability with vegetation and temperature. Our data will be correlated with the Arabian Sea and Chinese peat records. This study in the Sambhar and Didwana lakes in Rajasthan will be done in collaboration with researchers from India.
In August 2008, Dr. Routh was awarded a SASNET planning grant
for a research projet titled ”Biogeochemical signatures and high-resolution paleoclimatic records in spelotherms from caves in Meghalaya (India)”. More information about the 2008 SASNET planning grants.
The project is carried out in collaboration with Dr. Ramanathan Baskar from the Dept. of Environmental Science and Engineering, Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in Hisar, Haryana, India. Dr. Susmitha Baskar from the same university also works with Dr. Routh on the project. She is supported by the Swedish Institute. She came to Sweden in July 2009, and stayed for 1,5 years to work as a post-doc researcher.
Reconaissance survey of these caves was conducted in February 2009 and sampling was done in three caves (Syndai, Rupasor, and Mawmluh). The group collected samples for various microbiological assays and geochemical analyses. In Novermber 2009, another short fieldtrip was done to collect fresh samples for geomicrobiological work. Collaboration was set up with Dr Natuschka Lee at Technical University Munich, Germany, to process the samples.
Various analyses were made during the summer 2009. Various microbes were isolated which were involved in precipitating carbonate minerals in the caves. The work was recently submitted to Geomicrobiology Journal and is currently under review. Project abstract:
Caves are open cavities in the earth serving as natural sediment traps. Caves have emerged as one of the frontiers in Earth System Science research to address challenging questions related to various biogeochemical processes. Information on geochemical processes in caves can be also used as proxies for reconstructing high-resolution paleoclimate records. In a recently started cooperative initiative between Stockholm University and Asian universities on interdisciplinary climate related research, we propose to investigate some caves in Meghalaya, northeast India. The primary scientific aims of this project are to: 1) do a reconnaissance of different cave systems in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya, 2) focus on few of these caves for sampling drip water and speleothems, and 3) perform some preliminary investigations to determine the possibility of building long-term paleoclimate records. The study also focuses on capacity building measures including training and education with researchers from Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology (India).
In November 2009, this project planned for by a SASNET grant, was awarded SEK 1.5 m as a three years grant (2010-12) from Sida's
Developing Country Research Council (U-landsforskningsrådet). The research project has now been renamed ”Asian monsoon variability and impacts on terrestrial ecosystems: High-resolution records in
speleothem and lacustrine archives from northeast India”. More information about the 2009 Sida grants.
In August 2009, Dr. Routh was awarded another SASNET planning grant
for a new research project entitled ”High-resolution Holocene paleoclimate records in glacial lakes from the northeastern Himalayas in Bhutan”. More information about the 2009 SASNET planning grants.
The project is carried out in collaboration with Senior Geologist T. Tobgay from the
Department of Mines and Geology, Geological Survey of Bhutan in Thimphu. Since 2006, T Tobgay is working on a PhD thesis at the Dept. of Geosciences, Princeton University, USA. Project abstract:
Monsoonal intensity has varied on millennial- to centennial scales and affected the landscape, vegetation and early human societies. Paleoenvironmental records of such changes preserved in terrestrial archives (e.g. lakes, caves, flood plains) from southeast Asia are very rare. In particular, lakes are very useful for reconstructing high-resolution paleoclimate records.
In a recently started cooperative initiative between Stockholm University and Asian universities on interdisciplinary climate related research, we propose to investigate some pristine glacial lake systems in northeastern Bhutan. The primary scientific aims of this project are to: 1) do a reconnaissance of glacial lake systems in the eastern Himalayas, 2) focus on two lakes for sampling long sediment cores, and 3) perform some preliminary investigations to determine the possibility of building long-term paleoclimate records. The study also focuses on capacity building measures including training and education with researchers from Department of Geology and Mines at the Geological Survey of Bhutan in Thimphu.
In December 2009, Dr. Routh received SEK 735 000 as a three-year International Collaborative Research Grant from the Swedish Research Links programme (funded by Sida and the Swedish Research Council) for a India related project entitled ”Arsenic biogeochemical cycling in groundwater aquifers of the Bengal Delta Plains (West Bengal, India): Early detection and remediation issues”. See the full list of South Asia related projects given Swedish Research Links grants 2009.
The research project will be carried out in collaboration with Dr.
Punyasloke Bhadury, microbiologist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata. Project abstract: Arsenic toxicity is a global health problem affecting millions of people. The
situation is most critical in the Bengal Delta Plains (BDP) affecting >70
million people in India and Bangladesh. Cost-affective early detection and
suitable remediation schemes for As removal are mostly ineffective. Recent
studies indicate that biogeochemical interactions and microbial processes play
a crucial role in As cycling in the BDP aquifers. However, these issues are
poorly understood and/ investigated, and affect of microbial processes are
mostly restricted to laboratory studies. This novel interdisciplinary study
focuses on: 1) isolation of indigenous microbial communities (As(III)-
oxidizers) associated with As cycling and metabolism, and 2) development and
evaluation of an integrated biochemical sensor that can detect As(III)-
oxidizing bacteria, and corresponding As levels in groundwater. The project is
located in Ambikanagar and Badkula – two small villages in West Bengal, which
are impacted by high (up to 150 ppb) As levels in groundwater. Synergetic
development and cooperation between the research groups (at Stockholm
University and IISER-Kolkata) are expected to provide new insights for
developing cost-affective As remediation techniques based on early detection
and suitable bioaugmentation methods. Finally, outcome of this collaborative
project is very desirable for sustainable use, development, and proper
management of groundwater resources in the region.
Indian Guest lecturers at the department
Professor Govind J. Chakrapani from the Department of Earth Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee was a visiting professor at the department in the Summer 2007.
Prof. Chakrapani was the co-supervisor, along with Dr. Routh, for an Indian visiting PhD candidate, Preetam Choudhary, recruited from IIT Roorkee to work on the Kumaun Lake project mentioned above.
She defended her doctoral dissertation at IIT Roorkee in August 2008, after working in Dr. Routh’s lab for one year doing various analyses. The name of the thesis is ”Characterisation of organic matter in sediments of Kumaun Himalayas”. Several papers led by her in international journals were scheduled for publication in 2008 and 2009.
In August 2009, Dr. Choudhary returned to Sweden, as a scholarship hoder of the Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window programme lot 15, to do post-doc research at the Dept. of Geology, Lund University. More information.