‘Nano clay can help clean water in country’

A FRESH, clean water supply will be a reality in Pakistan’s certain regions, particularly in Southern Punjab, following the announcement of an international partnership spearheaded by the Pakistan government.

clean water supply will be a reality in Pakistan’s certain regions, particularly in Southern Punjab, following the announcement of an international partnership spearheaded by the Pakistan government, alongside other key stakeholders, and driven by the University of Huddersfield.

The initiative was led by University of Huddersfield’s Senior Research Fellow Dr Muhammad Usman Ghori who has aimed to transform the water supplies in the region into affordable drinking water for the benefit of the whole population and to provide a sustainable option of raw material to fabricate healthcare products.

“It is an initiative that is much needed by a considerable population of Pakistan,” Dr Ghori said while talking with the scribe here Sunday. He said in a recent study carried out by Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), it was found that a sizeable portion of the supplied water was not suitable for human consumption. The contaminated water was contributing to significant number of deaths every year and big part of Pakistan’s GDP was spent on health care of people who suffer from water-borne diseases.

He revealed that a solution to provide clean water supply is present in abundance in Pakistan’s region’s Koh-e-Suleiman mountain range in the form of raw Nano clay with properties that can be targeted for a number of health-giving applications. He said recently during a research work under University of Huddersfield, published in NATURE: Scientific Reports, explored a new source of montmorillonite in the Koh-e-Suleiman mountain range located in South Punjab.

Dr Ghori explained that this raw clay required a sophisticated purification protocol to remove any undesirable substances from the clay such as lead, arsenic and crystalline silica, which could impede industrial potential and have adverse health effects.

The area of South Punjab has a large dependence on agriculture and relatively low levels of industrialisation and consequently currently faces higher levels of poverty and unemployment compared with the rest of the province, he said adding an abundant supply of this largely untouched raw clay could help with economic conditions in the region.

so, in addition to physicochemical characterisation, this study investigated the practicality and economic feasibility of its extraction and purification for large-scale industrial applications by comparing the properties of the small-scale extracted clay to the large-scale extracted clay, and by conducting a techno-economic analysis.

“This is anticipated that the findings in this study will improve the economic condition of the region by providing employment opportunities to locals and a valuable resource for exportation,” he maintained.

Further work in collaboration with Pakistani universities and research institutes is now under way to use this natural resource for the benefit of the local people, not just in purifying the water supply, but for further industrial applications that would expand the economy of the region and provide work and industry for its people.

Originally from Sahiwal in Central Punjab, Dr Ghori studied for five years at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in the Southern Punjab city of Multan, where he completed his Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

It was during his time there as a student that he became deeply concerned over the conditions that how the unhealthy water was causing harm to the poorer families in the region. He also became aware of a natural resource, readily available, that could present a sustainable and environment-friendly solution to the problems related to water.

The pharmaceutical qualities of montmorillonite clay are well-known and documented, and it was the possibilities offered by this clay that made an impression on the young pharmacist. However, the prospect of helping the people would only resurface some years later after Usman Ghori had completed his PhD and subsequently his postdoctoral study at the University of Huddersfield in the UK.

It was on his appointment as a Senior Research Fellow at the University that his interest in montmorillonite returned and he applied to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) for a sandpit grant administered by the UK Research and Innovation, GCRF grants are designed support cutting-edge research that will address challenges faced by developing countries.

Dr Ghori said that despite the clay deposits being very accessible and easily mineable, they are government property and to ensure further funding the idea needed to involve Pakistan authorities at all levels.

To establish this strategic partnership, Dr Ghori first shared his vision and initiative with the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom Muhammad Nafees Zakaria, who played an instrumental role in establishing research links in Pakistan.

Now, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed that will initiate a strategic partnership to develop a network led by the University of Huddersfield with the support of the Pakistan government which will also include universities in Pakistan.

Dr Ghori thanked Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister for Science and Technology Fawwad Chaudhry for their support and facilitating him on his project.

In a letter to Dr Ghori, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawwad Chaudhry also felicitated him and the Huddersfield University Team over attaining a milestone in the field of industrial science. He expressed his “contentment and happiness at the signing of MOU by Huddersfield University with Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources (PCRWR) and five Pakistani universities. He saw it as a significant step towards collaboration between educational institutions of Pakistan and the United Kingdom involving research.

Commending Dr Ghori’s work, Fawwad Chaudhry urged Pakistani scientists, technology professionals and scholars to look towards Pakistan, which holds enormous opportunities in diverse areas. Under Prime Minister Imran Khan, high importance has been attached to the emerging technologies and many policy initiatives have been taken, he underscored.