In 2020, WAITRO member organizations INECOL (Mexico) and TISTR (Thailand) were awarded $25.000 to start their project: Phytotechnologies To Provide Clean Water In Small Communities. In this interview, Prof. Eugenia J. Olguín talks about her experience in the race for the WAITRO Innovation Award 2020, project details and what is to come.
WAITRO: Prof. Eugenia, how was the formation of the project team and the process of developing the project proposal?
Prof. Eugenia J. Olguín (EJO): The INECOL team has worked for 32 years in various aspects related to phytoremediation. Thus, we decided to upload a short proposal related to the use of phytotechnologies to improve the water quality of polluted water bodies on SAIRA platform according to the call for the award. Fortunately, the TISTR team replied immediately, and we started to prepare a joint proposal taking advantage of our complementary expertise in the field of phytoremediation, regardless that we had to work either late at night or early in the morning since there is a 12 hours difference between the two countries. We submitted the proposal entitled “Covid 19 challenge: phytotechnologies to provide clean water in small communities” in June 2020. The next few months were full of hard work for preparing a concise pitch of 4 minutes with the guidance of an expert assigned by WAITRO.
WAITRO: How was the experience of joining the WAITRO Innovation Award?
(EJO): The WAITRO Innovation Award is one of the excellent Programs that WAITRO has provided for its members. Our team would like to sincerely thank to the members of the WAITRO Secretariat for their time and effort in arranging the Program. To join this Program has been a great opportunity for our team. We have learned a lot during the whole application process, gaining new knowledge and experience in developing a project proposal and preparing a pitch to explain the research project in a very succinct and convincing manner. The program has allowed us not only to share scientific knowledge, but also to acquire networking skills with other researchers at the international level.
WAITRO: What was the most challenging moment during the process?
(EJO): The most exciting and challenging event during the process was to defend the proposal in front of a Jury, conformed by well renowned experts in water. We only had 15 minutes to answer questions and to sell our project. We emphasized the novelty, the previous experience of the two groups, and the benefit of supplying water to rural or urban communities during the pandemic and the complementation between the groups led by two women with several years of work in the field. The joy of learning that our project was selected as the winner of the “WAITRO Innovation Award 2020” during the 50th Anniversary Ceremony of WAITRO held on the 30th of October, was enormous.
WAITRO: Could you give us more details about the project and what is to come?
(EJO): The group in México has chosen as site 1 for implementing “Floating Treatment Wetlands” (FTW), an urban lake located at the center of the city of Xalapa, in Veracruz. The benefit to the community after treating the polluted water of the lake will be that the residents and the visitors will be safe from gastrointestinal diseases since the FTW are able to remove coliforms and possibly virus. Furthermore, the treated water will be used for the implementation of medicinal plants’ nurseries located in the grounds of a hospital which is nearby the lakes. The hospital is managed by the most important health service of México, the IMSS. They have a Program for preventing diseases, within the international Program known as “Green Hospitals”.
The group at TISTR in Thailand, has selected two small communities and has designed a water treatment system using phytofiltration technologies. In site 1, the domestic wastewater released from the premises of the TISTR research station-Lamtakong, in the Nakornrachasima Province, will be treated using constructed wetlands. In site 2, the design will focus on the treatment of the effluents from a shrimp farm located in Chachoengsao Province.
Both teams at TISTR and INECOL are continuously tracking each task, sharing, and exchanging ideas via online meetings. Although the Covid-19 pandemic and the different time zone made everything harder than it needed to be, the two organizations, INECOL and TISTR identified common interests and found very useful to work together. We are confident that the joint project will achieve the promised results.
Furthermore, we hope that the two organizations will maintain this good relationship and continue to find ways and means for future cooperation.
WAITRO: Thank you, Prof. Eugenia, for your valuable time and the feedback. Stay safe!
Prof. Eugenia J. Olguín, Project Manager at INECOL and leader of the project. Dr. Siriporn Larpkiattaworn, Senior Researcher at TISTR and leader of the project.
The WAITRO Innovation Award 2021 focuses on the SDG 2-Zero Hunger and supports international project teams that contribute to Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. Find out more here.