Arsenic-free water provides hope to millions of people in South East Asia

A EU-India consortium led by Queen's University Belfast has led to the development of technology which could provide safe drinking water for over 70 million people in South East Asia. The joint collaboration has resulted in the world's first low-cost technology to provide arsenic-free water to people in India and surrounding countries.

This week researchers from Queen's will travel to India to officially open the Eastern India Water Research Institute (EIWRI) in Kolkata. EIWRI will be located at Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU) and include a second Indian partner, the Institute of Environmental Management and Studies.

Work on the collaboration with the Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU), Kolkata has been ongoing for two years and it is hoped the technology will benefit other regions of the world with similar problems.

Recognising the work of Queen's in this area, the British Council will also announce the University's selection as a provider of training to improve groundwater management in regions of eastern India affected by arsenic.*

The opening of the new Institute forms part of a ten day visit to India by a Queen's delegation, led by its Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson. The visit will build on key research and teaching partnerships in Kolkata and New Delhi.

In Kolkata, Queen's will announce an expansion of its India Welcome Scheme for Indian Postgraduate students. Designed to develop science and technology leaders of the future, 30 scholarships will be on offer to encourage leading Indian students to come to Queen's.

Queen's will also announce the establishment of its new Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies on its Belfast campus, during a meeting with Dr Karan Singh, current President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and former Governor of Kashmir.

The Centre will house the single largest private collection of books and monographs on India, namely the Bill Kirk India Collection, which has been endowed to the University by the Kirk family.

Professor Gregson will also meet with India's industry confederations and the Indian Chamber of Commerce and focus on trade collaborations between companies in Northern Ireland and India.

One of the first beneficiaries of such partnerships will be Queen's Centre for Data Digitisation Analysis (CDDA). CMC, a leading Kolkata-based IT Company will announce a £400,000 deal with CDDA to digitise Indian government records.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Professor Gregson said: "International cooperation in research and education is vital for the joint economic futures of Northern Ireland and India. The opening of the Water Research Institute in Kolkata is a clear demonstration of the benefits of such cooperation and one that will benefit people around the globe.

"Queen's values its relationship with India and we are delighted to announce the establishment of our new Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies which will further strengthen the links between our countries."

In addition to new collaborations, the Queen's delegation will also build on partnerships established over previous years with India. These include a second international cancer conference in conjunction with India's National Institute of Immunology (NII).

Last year, Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Employment and Learning launched the first conference in New Delhi, and representatives from the NII will this week confirm that the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's will host the second global event in 2009.

New opportunities in research and education for staff and students will also arise from the trip as Queen's signs agreements and extensions to those already agreed with several of India's leading universities, including Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

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