Healthy AIT Eco-Campus Through Greener and Diverse Wetlands

Healthy AIT Eco-Campus Through Greener and Diverse Wetlands

1. Project Title: Healthy AIT Eco-Campus Through Greener and Diverse Wetlands:
Eco-City (Sustainable City) approach
2. Principal Investigators: Dr Oleg Shipin, EEM
Dr Vilas Nitivittananon, UEM (Co-investigator)
Partners: CMO (Ms. Chalita Lertwinyu, Head of CMO)
SODEXO (Mr Kritsadakorn Thaingkhot, Chief Landscaper)
3. Area of Activity: Health-Water-Biodiversity nexus on the AIT campus (front fountain pond and canal)

4. Background and rationale (maximum 200 words):

Ironically, out of all numerous campus wetlands (ponds, canal networks, reservoirs, lakes, semi-natural swamps, etc) the worst water quality is found in the most prominent one, the front fountain pond near AITCC and Administration building, as well as in its adjoining canal along the SERD building. This was the state over at least last decade, and the quality even exacerbated after the Flood, even after a thorough post-flood pond clean-up and sediment removal.

Such chronic poor water quality clearly presents health risks to the AIT community, and is not conducive to overall environmental balance on campus and community well being. Fur-thermore,extensive water surface of these most frequently visited AIT water bodies, in fact the campus face, is not attractive or aesthetically inviting for visitors and inhabitants alike, unless on rare occasions when the front fountain is on.

It is well known that wetlands present an excellent opportunity for betterment of the environment. However, AIT is being left behind in terms of using its prominent wetlands effectively. Nearby Thammasat University dramatically stepped its efforts in greening campus canals, and other wetlands after the Flood.

CMO and Sodexo are creatively promoting wetland betterment on campus but global scientific innovations and know how are frequently out of their reach. That is where ongoing and planned R & D by AIT faculty and students could complement their efforts making much more effective use of the campus wetlands.

5. Objectives (maximum 150 words):

The main objective is to decrease health risks to the AIT community through encouragement of campus wetland ecosystem health.

This will initiate Eco-City (Sustainable City) development on AIT campus to make it sustainable in line with ‘The Green Campus Initiative’.

To reach the main objective the following specific objectives are set up with a view to:

1. Diversifying campus wetland macrophytes (water plants) initially in the AIT front fountain pond and the adjoining SERD canal in order to improve their water quality and, ultimately, AIT community health.

2. Increasing aesthetic standards of the most highly visited area of the campus and thereby dramatically improving a landscape image of the campus in the eyes of visitors and inhabitants, while enhancing diversity and health of wetland ecosystem.

3. Introducing nutrient recycling and water re-use through introduction of macrophyte-based wetland aquaculture to the campus with an intension to produce valuable and diverse products for in-campus production (Asian pennywort, water lilies, morning glory, lotus, fish, etc).

6. Literature review (maximum 400 words):

Wetlands (canal networks, ponds, lakes,semi-natural swamps,) were and will always be an integral part of the AIT campus. Their primary flood control function frequently doubles up with irrigation, while in reality they occasionally play waste mitigation role (sewage leakages, storm wastewater surges, etc). Improvement of water quality is an important feature of wetland vegitation.

A review of the literature and our investigation on campus suggest that aquatic macrophytes enhance water quality and clarity, they reduce phytoplankton biomass through shading, reduction of nutrient availability, excretion of allelopathic substances and reduction of re-suspension (Scheffer, 1998, 1999). Current MSc student research shows that macrophytes (particularly, red water lily Nymphaea sp. and lotus Nelumbo nucifera) decrease turbidity of surrounding water (Fig 1). Both micro- and macro-biodiversity greatly increase once macrophytes are introduced. This provides new ecological niches and stabilizes ecological interactive networks and thereby health situation on campus (Keesing et al., 2010).

Although anecdotally asserted for a long time that a diverse ecosystem leads to a better human health (not to mention well-being) only over the last years did sound scientific evidence start to appear confirming the assertion (MEA, 2005; Pongsiri and Roman, 2007; Naeem et al., 2009, van den Berg et al., 2010). Biodiversity loss resulting from human development activities are now being associated with various adverse health effects (von Hertzen et al., 2011; Hanski et al., 2012). However, less attention is being paid to the effects of biodiversity loss on environmental microbiotas (microbial communities). Nevertheless the work is initiated recently on a Global Allergy Plan to prevent and reduce the global allergy burden for affected individuals and the societies in which they live (Haahtela et al., 2013). The variability among living organisms from all sources are closely related, at both the macro- and micro-levels. Loss of the macro-diversity is associated with shrinking of the micro-diversity (Chivian, 2002).

These aspects of Health-Water-Biodiversity nexus are effectively dealt with within the Eco-City concept (sometimes called Sustainable City) was introduced in the US in 1980s (Register, 1987). An eco-city is a city built off the principles of living within the means of the environment. The ultimate goal is to eliminate all carbon waste, to produce energy entirely through renewable sources, and to incorporate the environment into the city. Eco-cities’ intentions are rowing globally to stimulate economic growth, reduce poverty, organize cities to have higher population densities, and therefore higher efficiency, and improving health. S.E. Asia offers perfect conditions for promotion of eco-cities and green landscaping within them (Fook, 2010). Wetlands are important health-enhancing vehicles within the concept (Gibbs, 1994).

7. Detailed Methodology (maximum 400 words):

Introduction of selected species of macrophytes to the front fountain pond and/or adjoining ‘SERD canal’ (‘n.y. canal’)

Species to be introduced Victoria regia, red water lilies Nymphaea sp., Asian pennywort (bai bua bok)

Logistical support by CMO and Sodexo Landscaping section

Water quality monitoring (physico-­chemically and microbiologically)

Monitored parameters (dynamics as compared with the current situation):

  • water turbidity (directly under macrophytes and beyond): current poor quality: 70 NTU, good quality to achieve: 20-30NTU
  • indicator pathogen level (lower water indicator E.coli counts)
  • water parameters, such as BOD, SS, N, P-species
  • higher algal grazers’ numbers (to increase)

Macrophyte growth monitoring

Introduced macrophytes monitored (Fig 1) and their growth correlated with improved water parameters

Greenhouse gas emission reduction measurement

GHG will be calculated assuming the that macrophyte biomass harvested is used for biogas generation through anaerobic digestion (the element will be added at the subsequent stage of the development of the ‘AIT campus to Eco-City’ concept.

Landscape betterment quantification

Questionnaires and community surveys

Creative SODEXO landscaping efforts followed up.

8. Budget:

Purchase of macrophytes for the front fountain pond and canals:

Victoria regia (5,000 each x 7):

Red water lilies Nymphaea sp. (63 each x 80):

Concrete rings for pond-canal (100cm, W) x 35cm, H) to root the macrophytes in the deep pond: (400 each x 60 rings):

Research and monitoring by students and project staff: Cost of Analyses (physic-chemical and microbiological)

9. Time schedule:

6 months: Feb-July 2014

10. Expected outputs and impacts (maximum 400 words):

  •  Superior water quality in selected wetlands
  •  Increasingly stronger AIT community health (longterm)
  •  Aesthetically superior and more attractive wetlands (short and longterm) (Fig 1-2)
  •  More stable and progressively self-regulating campus ecosystem with lower campus M & O expenditure needs (long term)
  •  Greater nature education opportunities for the community due to an enhanced biodiversity (short and longterm)
  •  Increased potential for urban agriculture and aquaculture on campus (Asian pennywort, morning glory, medicinal herbs, lotus, water lilies, fish, etc) (longterm)
  •  More effective water pollution mitigation (standby, for occasional sewage leaks, and intentionally fed for urban agri/aquaculture production) (short and longterm)
  •  Nutrient recycling from wastewater through campus grey water reuse (short and longterm)
  •  GHG emission reduction, assuming that harvested macrophyte biomass is collected and digested into biogas methane (the element to be added at the subsequent stage of development of the ‘AIT campus Eco-City’ concept (longterm)
  •  Peer-reviewed article published and conference/seminars presentations on the related aspects of ‘the Green Campus Initiative’ promoted nationally and internationally (short and longterm)
  •  Relevant issues introduced in the curricula of on-going AIT courses (ED78.01, ED78.16, ED78.19 and ED79.04) (short and longterm).

11. How this project will contribute to “AIT: A living sustainability laboratory” (maximum 400 words):

All items of Section 10 are contributing.

The following components of the above will be contributed to:

  • Sustainable community health
  • Student research work on sustainability issues
  • Curriculum development
  • Water conservation (quality and quantity improvement)
  • Waste minimization and recycling
  • Campus landscape planning and nature education – preserving the natural environment (campus ecosystem)
  • Partnerships with municipalities (e.g. Klong Luang), industries (Navanakorn, universities (Thammasat Univ.) for dissemination of the sustainable practicies. Tremendous potential exists for improvement in line with the proposal in the areas around the AIT campus and far beyond.
  • Canals and other wetland areas can considerably extended in future to allow for increased multifunctional operation (urban agriculture, waste treatment of nearly all wastewater generated in AIT) striving towards the future campus as an Eco-­‐Campus wherein nutrient recycling will contribute to energy savings and urban agriculture concomitant to enhanced biodiversity.
  • The proposed project will link to the another proposal by the same team intended to bring AIT campus closer to the EcoCity, namely, ‘Piloting Green Roofs for Sustainable Buildings within AIT Campus’.
  • Current wetlands are an integral part of the ‘Dynamic Garden’, very creatively promoted by SODEXO and CMO to demonstrate sustainability of natural ecosystems.