Queen's University Belfast team wins education award

Close up of eastern India and Bangladesh Millions in parts of eastern India and Bangladesh have been exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic through well water

A team from Queen's University has won an award for creating the first low-cost arsenic removal plant in India.

Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta and colleagues in the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering received the outstanding engineering research team of the year title.

They received the accolade at the Times Higher Education awards in London.

It recognises the team's work in tackling the world's worst case of ongoing mass poisoning.

Millions of people in parts of eastern India and Bangladesh have been exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic through well water.

The arsenic is naturally present in the regions geology, but the poisoning was only identified in the 1980s.

Queen's Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said that the award underlined the global impact of the University's research.

"This pioneering project is a powerful example of how Queen's expertise and academic research can result in positive outcomes for society as a whole, and I am delighted to congratulate Dr Bhaskar Sen Gupta and his colleagues on winning this major award," he said.

70 million people

Praising the work, the judges said that engineering is essentially about problem solving.

"The team from Queen's has exemplified this, finding an innovative solution to overcome arsenic contamination of groundwater and thus improve the quality of life in rural communities," they said.

Employment and learning minister Danny Kennedy also welcomed the news.

"Dr Sen Gupta and Queen's are to be congratulated on the Award which follows the success of Queen's in being named as the Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2009," he said.

Over 70m people in eastern India and Bangladesh consume water and rice contaminated with arsenic.

Dr Gupta and his team developed a method of removing arsenic from groundwater without using chemicals.

The team established a trial plant in Kasimpore, near Kolkata, offering the technology to rural communities.

Six plants are now in operation in rural locations in West Bengal and are being used to supply water to the local populations using the subterranean arsenic removal technology.

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