MURUNGA - THE ULTIMATE ANSWER TO POLLUTED WATER
By TILAK S. FERNANDO

Moringa ( Murunga) tree which grows wildly in Sri Lanka could be the ultimate answer to purify water, in an hour, for safe drinking, according to the latest research by British Scientists according to Dr. Geoff Folkard, attached to the University of Leicester.

According to this latest theory, the seeds of Moringa plant could be used in water purification, which has already opened up possibilities ensuring that all water supplies in developing countries, such as in Sri Lanka, could be made safe for drinking and cooking purposes.

Today 1.3 billion people in the developing world are compelled to use contaminated water for drinking and cooking purposes, and over six million children are believed to die every year from infections caused by unclean water. Moringa seed will, therefore, be regarded in the very near future as The remedy to reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases, which are on record as one of the main causes leading to high incidence of deaths in the developing world.

Moringa Oleifera is a tree which is also native to Northern India. The latest research, funded by the British Overseas Development Agency and the European Union, has established that the crushed seeds of Moringa is capable of attracting and sticking fast to bacteria and other viruses allowing them to be skimmed off or get trapped in filter beds.

In developed countries water authorities use chemicals such as Aluminium Sulphate to solidify impure particles, which are then removed at Treatment Works. In view of the scarcity of such chemicals, the latest discovery of Moringa tree, which is also known as the " Drumstick Tree", is a path breaking innovation to purify water in developing countries, at a cost of only a fraction of the conventional chemical treatment available today.

Empirical studies in Malawi have established that the cost of importing chemicals from South Africa for water treatment as of 400,000 per year, and in comparison with such exorbitant costs, use of the crushed seeds of Moringa plant is said to be extremely cost effective and equally effective as the chemical methods adopted. During the water treatment it has been discovered that crushed seeds produce positive charges like in magnets - attracting negative elements of bacteria and other toxic particles in the water.

Dr. Folkard has also pointed out other benefits of the Moringa tree to man. For example, its pods, leaves and seeds are highly nutritious and contain large amounts of Proteins and Vitamins A & C, Calcium and Iron. It is also an established fact, by scientists, that Moringa seeds could be processed to extract vegetable oil for other uses such as cooking, soap-making, cosmetics and also as a fuel for lamps. If one were to talk about extracted vegetable oil out of Moringa seeds it is pertinent to mention that the imported vegetable oils cost three times over the vegetable oils sold in Supermarkets in Britain.

Other spin-offs from the plant are said to be its leaves which can be used as fertiliser; powdered seeds are used to produce ointments to heal bacterial skin infections and as source of fuel and pulp for paper making. Knowingly or unknowingly or just by blindly following an ' old granny theory', the Sri Lankan housewife uses Moringa leaves in cooking, as an absorbent agent of toxic elements in food, especially when shell fish are cooked.

The researchers who are dedicated to the project are campaigning with vigour to persuade governments and international agencies to promote planting of the moringa tree extensively. In this respect Sri Lanka's fertile soil and the presence of Moringa tree in abundance will certainly go a long way in purifying water and it could be the ultimate answer for the Colombo canals, particularly the Beire Lake and the Dehiwala canal, which have been exposed recently in the press as polluted waterways which are rotting & stinking to high heaven !.

It is also relevant to mentioned that in addition to the benefit effects of a particular plant like the Moringa tree, the British scientists working with South American Tribes have discovered certain plants which could be used to process drugs to fight Malaria and prevent skin cancer. In this context, it is encouraging that possibilities abound in Sri Lanka to reach and identify certain plants to derive medicinal applications to cure various diseases, since the climatic conditions are similar to the countries in South America where such medicinal plants are found. In Sri Lanka Ayurvedic treatment is based on the use of various medicinal plants. However, there may be other medicinal plants awaiting identification which could open up possibilities for medical uses to treat many other ailments.

Dr. Monique Simmonds of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, one of the scientists who has been working with South American tribes, has been quoted as saying that the group of scientists who were involved in the research project was not prepared to divulge the names of the plants used by the tribes to treat fevers, especially Malaria, until drug companies signed contracts. This is to ensure that part of the profits from the sale of new drugs processed and manufactured by drug companies are remitted to enhance the qualify of life of those tribes in South America who are the pioneers in the discovery of medicinal properties of plants which grow wildly in their natural habitat.


PS: Article is based on Research made by Clarence H. Fernando, Watford,UK.