What is Bioremediation?
Bioremediation is a method for using the activities of microorganisms and-or plants to transform organic or inorganic compounds that may be harmful to humans, animals, plants or the environment to compounds that are less harmful.
One of the major concerns to mankind today is safeguarding the natural resources and environment, ultimately the mother earth. In the past few years, there has been a rapid increase in industrialization, extensive agricultural practices, pollution, etc. leading to a threat to human life.
For example, in 1989, thousands of metric tons spell of crude oil in Alaska, led to a massive loss in marine life as well as several long-term environmental impacts. Minor oil spills and non-point oil contamination are no fewer threats to public health, biodiversity, and the environment.
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But on the other hand, scientists around the world have been working to find a way to treat these problems in an eco-friendly manner. And here comes the concept of Bioremediation with the ultimate goal of restoring the polluted environment by natural means. It is an innovative technology, there is great interest in research and development as well as actual applications.
In simple terms, Bioremediation is a technology that makes the use of microorganisms to enact environmental pollutants. It ultimately exploits the ability of the indigenous microorganisms in the soil, air, etc as well as the exogenous microorganisms leading to the biodegradation or rather destruction of the contaminants.
Pollutants may include agrochemicals, dyes, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, nuclear waste, plastics, sewage, etc. and likewise the process of removal depends on the nature of a particular pollutant.
Going further bioremediation can be categorized as :
- Ex situ bioremediation
- In situ bioremediation
Ex-situ involves disinterring pollutants from the polluted sites and then transporting them to another site for treatment which may include techniques like land treatment, slurry phase, composting, etc.
In-situ involves treating the pollutants the site of pollution itself rather than transporting them to the treatment site and this includes the techniques like bioventing, biosparging, phytoremediation, etc.
Although a lot of advancements have been done in bioremediation techniques, yet few limitations can come up while solving this challenge of cleaning the pollutants in an eco-friendly manner, for e.g. microbe often cannot establish a niche in the environment, soil permeability is one of the
concern, very high containment levels can be toxic to microbes and so on.
Nevertheless, this technology (combines basic microbiology, advanced biotechnology, and environmental engineering) has given a way to treat the pollutant by natural process and also this may lead to the complete destruction of the target pollutant onsite. In addition to this, the technique is less expensive as compared to other physicochemical treatment methods.
Hopefully, we can pave our way towards a better world for the subsequent generations!
By ANAGHA PISAL (MSc. Biotechnology)
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