BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY, INDIA
Research focus: Bioremediation of Contaminated Soils for Achieving the UN-Sustainable Development Goals
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has acknowledged pollution as a major threat to the homeostasis of the soil system. Shockingly, one third of the global soil, a critical life-supporting system of our planet, has already degraded. Contaminated soil needs to be restored in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Vishal’s research is broadly focused on harnessing plant-microbe interactions as a low-input biotechnology for the sustainable clean-up of soil sites contaminated by organochlorine pesticides. Through this, he also explores the impact of the changing climate on plant-microbe-pollutant interactions and the clean-up process.
With the aim to support a bio-based economy, Vishal is using tolerant plant species, multipurpose bacterial species and various agro-residues for the bioremediation of organochlorine pesticides contaminating sites in North India. He does this whilst also enhancing the soil carbon content and deriving additional benefits, such as biomass and biofuel. Additionally, Vishal focuses on the farmers’ perception of the restoration process of contaminated land and proposes a model for a successful restoration venture. Whilst analysing the potential of bioenergy plants for phytoremediation of persistent organic pollutants in contaminated soil, he is exploring the opportunities of biomass generated from phytoremediation for the production of biofuels and bioproducts. Since farmland is limited and primarily required to grow crops for an increasing global population, the use of polluted lands exclusively for bioenergy and bioproducts generation will avoid the potential conflict between food and fuel production and strengthen the scientific and technological capacity for responsible production. Vishal is also evaluating the plant-microbe-pollutant interactions under changing climate conditions to develop climate-resilient remediation strategies and promote the soil carbon sequestration.
The jury was impressed by the ambition and far reach of Vishal’s project, which will be invaluable not only for India’s ecology but for the global ecology. They see his work as related to sustainable clean-up technologies, which can be further used and developed by the knowledge he gains during the Green Talents Science Forum.