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Moringa tree

Seeds from the Moringa tree purify water. Photo: Trees for Life International

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Ancient tradition of water purification could save lives

Ecologist

5th March, 2010

Thousand-year-old Indian method of using tree seeds to purify water should be used more widely for tackling waterborne diseases

Indian tree seeds that purify water could dramatically reduce disease in the less-industrialised world, say researchers.
 
The technique of crushing seeds from the Moringa Oleifera tree and adding them to water has been used in its native India for thousands of years.
 
Now researchers from Canada say it is time to publicise the technique more widely in order to reduce water born diseases across the world.
 
One billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America rely on untreated surface water to survive. The NGO Water Aid estimates that 1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.  
 
The researchers at Clearinghouse, an organisation that promotes low-cost water treatment technologies, are pointing to the ancient method of water purification as a possible solution.
 
As well as reducing bacteria by over 90 per cent, the use of Moringa Oleifera seeds reduces 'turbidity', making water less cloudy.
 
Furthermore, say the researchers, the Moringa tree is suited to growing in areas afflicted by drought and has other benefits besides water
purification.  
 
'Not only is it drought resistant, it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertiliser, as well as highly nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers,' said Michael Lea of Clearinghouse.
 
Despite its life-saving potential, the benefits of the tree are little known, even in areas where it is cultivated.
 
Lea hopes that by making his report freely available will allow communities most at need to benefit from it.
 
'This technique does not represent a total solution to the threat of
waterborne disease.'
 
'But given the cultivation and use of the Moringa tree can bring benefits in the shape of nutrition and income as well as of far purer water, there is the possibility that thousands of 21st century families could find themselves liberated from what should now be universally seen as 19th century causes of death and disease,' he said.

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Water Aid

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