LUT researches water quality in the Himalayas

Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) Laboratory of Green Chemistry is involved in a study looking at the effects of climate change on glacier melt and water quality in the Himalayas.

Water samples are being taken from the waterways on the Tibetan plateau which come from glacier melt-water. The water samples are being measured e.g. for turbidity, pH values, temperature and electrical conductivity at different seasons of the year. Electrical conductivity is one of the most important readings, as it shows how much the melt water contains chemicals.

Researchers are also taking samples of water sediments and fish. In these samples they are looking for heavy metals and agricultural pesticides.

The sustainable use of water is promoted

"Asia's major rivers the Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, Yellow River and Mekong all originate from the Himalayan glaciers. These rivers bring water to approximately two billion people. By examining water samples and analysing lake sediments we are able to monitor the quality of water and to get information about the environment and climate changes," says Professor Mika Sillanpää from the Laboratory of Green Chemistry.

He also points out that the data will be used to promote the sustainable use of water in the region, where economic growth is rapidly occurring.

The research group, which includes Sillanpää, in addition to Nepalese and Chinese researchers, is located in a mobile laboratory. Some of the measurements are made on the spot, but other samples are taken back to Lhasa, Peking or Finland for analysis.

Water quality is monitored continuously and in real time

"We have a novel online monitoring station, which measures water quality continuously in real time. It provides immediate information about sudden changes in water quality. The measurement results can be monitored in Mikkeli from various measurement locations in Nepal," says Sillanpää.

According to him, the field work in the highlands is very heavy. Getting around is difficult due to bad roads and rock falls. You need to walk the final distance to get to some of the sampling locations and carry the research equipment in a backpack.

Sillanpää can speak classical Tibetan and it has been of some assistance in conducting the research. He also understands modern Tibetan and can deal with practical issues in the language.

LUT's partners in the project include the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Tibet and Kathmandu University in Nepal. The two-year project will last until the end of 2014. In connection with the project the Laboratory of Green Chemistry will receive eight exchange researchers from the partner universities. One researcher from both of the universities is doing a doctoral thesis under the guidance of Sillanpää.

Project provides data for developing countries about climate change

The research project on water quality in the Himalayas falls under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Academy of Finland funding programme for climate change research in developing countries. Funding is being given for seven projects, one of which is the research being led by Sillanpää.

Funded projects are required, among other things, to provide data for developing countries about climate change, to create multi-disciplinary expertise and research facilities in those countries and to generate new research collaboration networks between Finland and developing countries.

LUT's Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry at Mikkeli led by Professor Mika Sillanpää conducts research into water consumption and drinking water. A field which is becoming ever more current as water crises become more common.

The laboratory's research is aimed at reducing water consumption, as well as drinking water production and waste-water treatment without polluting the waterways. The cross cutting theme of the research is nanotechnology.

For more information please contact: Mika Sillanpää, tel. +358 400 205 215, mika.sillanpaa@lut.fi