Intended for healthcare professionals


Making dirty water drinkable

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 29 September 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:781

Kitchen garden scheme is alternative…

  1. Frank J Leavitt, chairman (yeruham{at},
  2. Mrinalinee Vanarase, head
  1. Centre for Asian and International Bioethics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
  2. IORA Ecological Consultants, Pune, India

    EDITOR—We suggest an alternative way of improving water quality,1 which we have tried to teach on a couple of projects: most recently in Maharashtra, India, together with the Israeli Medical Cadets Organisation and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is an integrative method with a number of positive effects besides its potential for improving water.

    All human, animal, and vegetable waste must be composted in a place not vulnerable to run-off. This should immediately have an effect on locally caused water pollution from human and animal waste.2 It cannot prevent polluted water coming from elsewhere. It can help reduce parasite infection in children and others going barefoot around “night soil.”

    If the material is first composted anaerobically, it can be used to make biogas for cooking, reducing the health dangers of smoke in poorly ventilated homes.3 Biogas plant projects are underway in India, Nepal, Africa, and elsewhere.4 5

    After the biogas potential is exhausted through anaerobic composting, the material can then be composted aerobically for garden fertiliser. During our 2001 health survey in Velhe Block doctors told us that one of the main health problems of villagers is lack of vitamins and minerals, which can be supplied by a kitchen garden.w1

    The kitchen garden scheme may provide a partial but important solution to problems of polluted water, parasites, smoke inhalation, and nutrition. This solution can help many, but not all. In the Palar River Delta of Tamil-Nadu the water supply arrives badly polluted from cities further north. In Bangladesh deep drilled wells, which were supposed to solve the problem of contaminated surface water, are contaminated with arsenic.w2


    • Embedded Image References w1 and w2 are on

    • Competing interests None declared.


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