10 February 2019
Bhubaneswar: While other Class 10 students are busy banging their heads on the walls to score a perfect percentage on their board exams, 16-year-old Naisargik Lenka of DAV Public School Unit VIII is busy perfecting his innovation that can save lakhs of people from cancer.
Lenka came to the limelight after he received Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar (National Child Award) in the Innovation category this year. While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik congratulated him on his success, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too tweeted, “Naisargik Lenka is 16 and at such a young age, he worked on innovative solutions for remediation of contaminated soil and water, a method of treating municipal waste water and a smart toilet model which has been named ‘Swachh APT.’ A fitting recipient of the Bal Shakti Puraskar!”
The aspiring scientist and social entrepreneur has developed three innovations as mentioned by the PM. The first one is a smart toilet model ‘Swachh APT’ aimed at saving water. Operating using only a basic mobile phone, the toilet flushes automatically after use and recycles the wastewater.
He has also developed a method to treat municipal wastewater with the help of green algae. This innovation has the potential to generate employment opportunities for self-help groups and the poor, says Lenka.
But the innovation that won him the prestigious award is his longest-running project that can protect lakhs from cancer. A native of Nilambarpur in Jajpur district, Lenka was well-versed with Hexavalent chromium Cr(VI), found in mining areas like Sukinda, seeping into soil and making water toxic. This led to people in the vicinity falling prey to cancer and other diseases.
Determined to find a solution for those living a life of deprivation, Lenka was guided by Sailabala Padhi, a former director of the Centre for Environmental Studies and Kishore C S Panigrahi, a teacher in the school of biological sciences at the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER). After 1.5 years of research, he came up with a innovation to treat the harmful compound.
Explaining his innovation, Lenka said, “I have developed a bio-remediation method for toxic and highly carcinogenic hexavalant chromium which I am treating with the help of locally isolated Aanabaena Cyllindrica immobilizing into polymer matrix.”
“This matrix is going to help around 30 lakh people who are residing in and around the Chromite mining areas in the state of Odisha,” he said.
While the project is still in the development phase, Lenka proudly said, “I am elated to have received this award and I hope this becomes the stepping stone for a new and more challenging.”