Increasingly, unsustainable practices are placing pressure on natural resources to meet the needs of a rapidly growing global population, resulting in, among other things, soil, water and air pollution, and deforestation. Respiratory diseases and digestive disorders, associated with air and water pollution, drive medical costs skyward. Now more than ever, the demand for healthy food, clean water and fresh air are unprecedentedly high, especially in the heavily populated Asia and the Pacific region. (http://www.rcaro.org/rca)
Towards a Solution
To address this situation, the Republic of Korea Facility for Capacity Development through South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Education, Science and Technology, in collaboration with the Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology for Asia and the Pacific, implemented a project entitled ”Electron Beam Applications for Value Addition to Food and Industrial Products and Degradation of Environmental Pollutants in the Asia-Pacific Region”. This project focused on promoting the use of nuclear technologies (electron beam accelerators) in (a) providing safe, wholesome and nutritious food through food irradiation; (b) advancing industrial production through irradiation of electric cables and automobile tires to make them more durable; (c) treating environmental pollutants from wastewater discharged from the textile industry, urban household wastewater, and chemicals in underground water; and (d) removing air pollutants. The technologies are proven to be especially useful in decomposing, separating or removing toxic elements from chemical waste, wastewater, sewage sludge, and air pollutants from power plants.
The project followed a two-step strategy. The first step was to train the national project coordinators and other participants to use the technologies. In the second step, the training recipients became trainers and advocators for the use of the technologies in their own countries.
Results of the project include:
- At the regional level, 70 participants from 13 countries were trained through regional training courses;
- At the national level, 16 countries reported that the knowledge and skills had been passed to 3,447 trainees (1,510 female and 1,937 male);
- New facilities were established in China, India and the Philippines;
- A pilot plant for wastewater treatment using electron beam technology was installed in China;
- Irradiation research on honey dressings in a new facility in the Philippines produced honey alginate dressings for use in treating burned patients at the Philippine General Hospital;
- Indonesian research on electron beam irradiation of edible mushrooms and palm oil proved that the technology can improve the quality of mushrooms and produce palm oil at a more competitive price;
- Countries without electron beam technology, such as Myanmar and Pakistan, have promoted the technology at the policy level. During the final review meeting, countries without the technology indicated a strong demand for triangular and South- South capacity development; and
- Indonesia has provided irradiated food for populations affected by disasters, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The project was selected for scaling up in phase 2 of the Facility (July 2016-June 2020). The Facility will continue to provide training and facilitate knowledge exchanges as more and more countries in the region are interested in learning to use electron beam technology to ensure safe food and industrial products and remove environmental pollutants.
The Republic of Korea attributes its unprecedented jump from an impoverished country to a developed one in the space of a few decades to investments made in education, science and technology. To share its successful experience, the Facility for Capacity Development through South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Education, Science and Technology was established by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and the Republic of Korea Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in December 2010. Under this Facility, several institutions in education, science and technology package and share development knowledge and experience with partner institutions globally. Since 2011, the Facility has implemented 15 projects. The Facility beneficiaries include institutions and people in 30 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America.