Medio Ambiente

Bananas could purify water in the Amazon

03/09/2019 United Nations Environment

Granda comes from the Sucumbios province in the northern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon, known for its oil production. Her community is employed mostly by oil companies, as well as in agriculture—and bananas are an important local crop.  

Photo: UN Environment

Photo: UN Environment

During World Water Week, we spoke with changemaker Maricela Granda, a 25-year-old environmental biotechnology engineer from Ecuador who is developing a way to purify water using banana waste.

Granda comes from the Sucumbios province in the northern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon, known for its oil production. Her community is employed mostly by oil companies, as well as in agriculture—and bananas are an important local crop.  

It was while harvesting bananas on her parents' land that Granda observed the detailed structure of the pseudostem—the part of the banana plant that looks like a trunk—as it lay discarded. 

She also found that water in the area was polluted by hydrocarbons—as found in oil—with detrimental impacts on drinking water.

Granda used her expertise to investigate whether the banana stem could be used as an absorbent material to soak up hydrocarbons in the water. Her idea was to make a filter which could be installed in local houses to bring clean water to communities in areas affected by water pollution. 

Lis Mullin Bernhardt, Freshwater Expert at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “Having water of both sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the health of freshwater bodies like lakes and rivers, with direct impacts on human health.

“To tackle the global freshwater crisis, we need to find innovative, low-cost methods for water management which are readily available wherever needed. This sounds like an exciting example of such a method.”

We spoke with Granda to find out what inspired her idea, and what advice she would pass on to other young entrepreneurs.  

Read more here

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