Department of Applied Environmental Microbiology, School of Biotechnology; Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

Address: AlbaNova University Centre KTH, Roslagstullsbacken 21, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Fax: +46 (0)8 5537 8468
Web page: http://www.biotech.kth.se/microbiology/index.html

Contact person: Professor Gunnel Dalhammar, phone: +46 (0)8 553 78 300

Research in environmental microbiology concerns microbial processes in the environment. By learning and understanding these processes one can use them to keep the environment clean from pollution and waste. Applications today, where microorganisms are used for environmental restoration are Wastewater Treatment and Bioremediation processes.

Research connected to South Asia:

Over the years Prof. Dalhammar has been principal supervisor of more than 70 MSc students of which 40 have been performed as a Minor Field Study in a developing country (mainly Africa and Latin America but also India). She is the Chairman for ”Engineers without Borders, Sweden” (INUG), since April 2005, and in February 2005 she initiated and ran a conference at KTH titled ”What Can We Do? – Mobilizing technical capacity for South-East Asia”, with more than 200 participants concerning the effects of the Tsunami catastrophe. More information on the conference (as a pdf-file).
In January 2003 she was invited as a keynote speaker for the 1st International workshop on ”Wastewater Treatment Decentralised Technologies for Effective Management”, held in New Delhi, India. January 2003.
Prof. Dalhammar participates in a Sida funded research programme called BIO EARN (Biotechnology for East Africa Region) and a MISTRA funded programme on Sustainable Urban Water Management. Her research interest focuses on the development of novel systems and processes for wastewater treatment.
In November 2005 she received a one-year planning grant from the Swedish Research Links programme, for an India related project titled ”Bioremediation of industry wastes and microbiological community structure analyses by traditional and modern molecular approaches”. The Indian partner in the project is Dr. Chandra Sainathan. More information on the Swedish Research Links grants, November 2005.

Dr. Gunaratna Rajarao is also a researcher at the Dept. of Applied Environmental Microbiology. In June 2007, Dr. Rajarao received SEK 738 000 as a three-years grant (2008–10) from the Swedish research council FORMAS for the project ” Development of sustainable, simple and inexpensive purification process using plant materials for safe drinking water for rural India”. The grant was given for an application to the Joint Formas – Sida/SAREC grants for research on sustainable development in developing countries. The collaboration partner on the Indian side is Prof. Sankaran Krishnan, Director & Head if Department, Centre for Biotechnology, Anna University in Chennai. More information on the grant.
Abstract: In a country where the first measurement of rainfall was made by Kautilya as early as 1200 AD, it is surprising that estimates of the total availability of water are quite recent. The UNEP stipulates that a country is considered ‘water-stressed’ if its water availability is between 1000 to 1700 cubic meters per person. The amount of water available per person in India is decreasing steadily – from 3450 cm in 1951, it fell to 1250 cm in 1999. This according to the Ministry of Water Resources, is expected to decrease further to 760 cm per person in 2050 (The Observer of Business and Politics, 23 April 2000). Nearly 70% of Indian population habitats in rural or suburban setting, with limited access to potable water. More than 200 million Indians do not have access to safe and clean water. An estimated 90% of the country’s water resources are polluted with untreated industrial and domestic waste, pesticides, and fertilizers (The Observer of Business and Politics, April 23 2000). Considerable part of the communicable diseases in India is related to unsafe water. About 1.5 million children under the age of five die every year from water-borne diseases, and also that the country loses over 200 million workers annually due to these diseases. It is also not uncommon to find such sources contaminated with industrial effluents such as tanneries and dyes and fabric units, synthetic fertilizers, fecal materials including pathogens and parasites. In fact high incidence of infectious diseases and therefore poverty in these countries can be attributed to unsafe drinking water. The growing scarcity and competition for water, however, stands as a major threat to future advances in poverty alleviation. Women work force, otherwise productive in entrepreneurship, spends several hours to fetch drinking water from sources away from 5 to 8km in rural India.

In November 2007, Dr. Rajarao received an additional SEK 1.2 million as a three-years grant (2008-10) from Sida's Developing Country Research Council (U-landsforskningsrådet), for this same project, now titled ”Safe and inexpensive water purification process using natural materials for tropics”. More information about the Sida grants 2007. new

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Last updated 2010-09-10