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What are desalination plants?

Topics Covered: Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

What are desalination plants?


Uddhav Thackeray clears Mumbai’s first desalination plant.

  • The proposed plant, which will process 200 million litres of water daily (MLD), is being set up to overcome the water shortage faced by Mumbai in the months of May and June.

Swiss Challenge method?

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to take the ‘Swiss Challenge Method’ for the project.

  • Under this, a project can be awarded to a private player on an unsolicited proposal.
  • The private firm which has first submitted a proposal can be approached directly for negotiations and if they do not agree, then other bidders are called.

What are desalination plants?

A desalination plant turns salt water into water that is fit to drink.

  • The most commonly used technology used for the process is reverse osmosis where an external pressure is applied to push solvents from an area of high-solute concentration to an area of low-solute concentration through a membrane.
  • The microscopic pores in the membranes allow water molecules through but leave salt and most other impurities behind, releasing clean water from the other side.
  • These plants are mostly set up in areas that have access to sea water.

How widely is this technology used in India?

This technology has been limited to affluent countries in the Middle East and has recently started making inroads in parts of the United States and Australia.

  • In India, Tamil Nadu has been the pioneer in using this technology, setting up two desalination plants near Chennai in 2010 and then 2013.
  • Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh are also exploring the ideas.


  • High cost of setting up and running a desalination plant.
  • The disposal of the byproduct — highly concentrated brine — of the desalination process.


Prelims Link:

  1. What is desalination?
  2. What is a desalination plant?
  3. What is reverse osmosis?
  4. Desalination plants in India.

Mains Link:

What is desalination? Why desalination plants were installed recently in Mumbai? Discuss.

Sources: Indian Express.