Ensuring Health & Food Safety from rapidly expanding Wastewater irrigation in South Asia

The purpose of this project is to develop and promote the uptake of preventive options based on a comprehensive assessment of risks and benefits associated with wastewater irrigation in Hyderabad (India) and Faisalabad (Pakistan). These cities have large untreated wastewater irrigation. They are therefore suitable for comparative purposes and to develop and promote country specific risk prevention options.  

In light of increasing global water scarcity, there is a clear and urgent need to identify, assess and disseminate a range of risk mitigation strategies that seek to overcome food scarcity, unemployment and urban poverty. Increasing water scarcity and competition for freshwater with other sectors results in wastewater being the main source of water for urban and peri-urban agriculture. The project combines research on risk factors, transmission and severity associated with wastewater irrigation of food and fodder, with dissemination and uptake of risk mitigation options by farmers and authorities. Applied research on human and animal health, and livelihoods will generate public goods for the global research community. The action research component will meet the need for actionable management options that have been expressed by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), governments and farmers associations in India and Pakistan. The project targets poor urban and peri-urban farmers and consumers whose livelihoods depend upon the sale or transportation of wastewater-irrigated produce. It will also benefit the wider global research community, water managers, urban planners and public health authorities by providing planning and management tools to reduce the impact of the main risks. PROJECT OBJECTIVES • To identify a framework of actors and interactions along the chain from wastewater source to end-use • To set up a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database of urban and peri-urban agriculture and wastewater irrigation • To evaluate human health and agronomic risks from field to consumer • To economically evaluate the direct and indirect livelihood benefits as well as the health and adaptation-related costs of wastewater irrigation • To comprehensively assess tradeoffs, risks, costs and benefits at different levels along the chain from wastewater users to consumers of produce • To come up with concrete, actionable risk prevention recommendations