Agromining for contaminated soil remediation – the 11th Sino-French workshop

The University of Eastern Finland is one of the 17 partner universities of International Institute for Environmental Studies (IIES). Our Aquatic Ecotoxicology group has been involved in most of the scientific conferences organised/partnered by IIES. This time two of our PhD students (me and Timo) participated in LIA Ecoland Workshop 2018 held in Guangzhou, China from 29th October to 2nd November. The workshop, 11th Sino-French International Workshop on Contaminated Soil Remediation, was held at SunYat-sen University by ECOLAND. The joint lab ECOLAND, created in December 2015, is the outcome of a fruitful cooperation between two laboratories, the LSE of the University Of Lorraine (UL) and INRA and the LEPCRT of Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU), around pollution issues and remediation of soil and water. The LIA ECOLAND project is to help restore value to territories marked by persistent pollution, and to support the development of ecosystem services through the implementation of appropriate strategies for the management of polluted sites and soils. IIES covered the travel expenses plus the visa fee whereas the food and accommodation in Guangzhou was covered by SYSU.

Bhabishya and Timo at the workshop

The main objective of the workshop was to develop innovation for circular economy for abandoned secondary resources such as polluted soils, wastes and sediments. One of the focus was on Agromining and/or Phytomining. The main aim is to identify flora that can grow on polluted or abandoned mining sites for recovering the heavy metals from such sites. The heavy metals are then recovered from the biomass by bio-refinery. It was interesting to know about the use of plants for soil remediation as well as for metal mining. The workshop had 2 days of scientific exchange (presentations, posters) and 2 days of field trip. Unfortunately, none of our students had any poster or oral presentation for the workshop. However, it was nice for both of us to participate in such conference (This being first for both of our PhD students) and interact with researchers from other universities and research facilities. The participants were mostly Chinese and French (Obviously!) with few more from Europe, Asia and North America.

Apart from the presentations, the workshop also had 2 days of field trip. The first day of the field visit was to nearby city of Dongguan. There the participants visited a municipal waste treatment center operated by Canvest Environ Group Co. Ltd. An exhibition building next to the treatment plant had things made out of waste material for exhibition. On the second day of the visit, we were supposed to visit food waste treatment plant in Schenzen, China. However, there was a last minute change of plans and we went instead to China National Gene Bank close to Schenzen. Timo, however, had to go to Hong Kong on the same day to attend The 2nd Graduate Students Forum. So, he could not join us for the second day of the field visit (and he did not miss much). After the visit to the gene bank, we headed to a Hakka Museum nearby. Hakka are the subgroup of Han Chinese who migrated from North China to South and settled in Guangdong (where we were) and neighboring areas.

Municipal waste treatment plant operated by Canvest Environ Group Co. Ltd

Besides the workshop, there was not much to do as most of our time during the day was taken up by the workshop. However, I managed to have some free time on the last day of the trip and go to few places in Guangzhou. When in China, you have to eat and shop. Things are so cheap there. But the only problem was of the language. And, since everybody thought I was a Chinese (Because I am of Asian ethnicity from Nepal) my first words were “Not Chinese” in all the places I went for the whole week. The food was especially good (and no Potatoes for a week).

In all, the trip was a fruitful one. Hope we will have something to present in our next conference and maybe we will have some interested students in future working in agromining at our research group.

Bhabishya with horse made up of waste products

Text and photos: Bhabishya Gurung


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