The Indus Project: Innovative tile-based bioremediation.

The Indus Project is a tile-based, modular bioreactor wall system for cleaning water through bioremediation. And beautiful it is, too.

Small-scale artisanal industries in countries such as India face a challenge: they must manage wastewater treatment with limited resources. Manufacturing of textiles or jewellery often release dyes and water contaminated with heavy metal into the environment. Intervention is needed, as it is estimated that up to 80% of India’s surface and ground waters are polluted.

The goal of The Indus Project is to enable the rural community of artisans to regenerate water for reuse within their manufacturing processes.

The tiles of the Indus wall can be crafted locally using traditional clay-making methods. Inspired by the architecture of a leaf, water flows over a series of vein-like channels containing algae prepared in a seaweed-based hydrogel. Pollutants such as cadmium are sequestered by the algae and the hydrogel can then be processed to recover heavy metals safely.

The design of Indus reflects a interdisciplinary approach to water pollution. The project is developed from a series of site visits, case studies and interviews conducted with artisans in India that have reiterated the need for a simple, scalable and sustainable system to treat heavy metal contaminated wastewater on a local level.

Indus is designed to be fabricated using readily available clay from traditional techniques of press moulding. The modularity of the system enables the artisans to construct a wall depending on the site availability along with the amount of water to be treated. It is also designed to be integrated within the existing community.

The visibility of the system encourages communities to engage with and consider the impacts of water contamination and environmental clean-up. Additionally, the design and fabrication of the wall gives a new dimension to traditional clay making practices – an innovative answer to a clear design hurdle.