The director of the ICRA and new doctor honoris causa of the UdL, Damià Barceló, warns of its increase as a result of the COVID-19

  •  In 2050 there will be more plastic than fish

In 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish, this is one of the conclusions reached by the new doctor honoris causa of the University of Lleida (UdL), Damià Barceló Cullerés, director of the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), in his investiture speech. Barceló, who holds a doctorate in analytical chemistry, warned of the volume of plastic production and consumption in the world, figures that have worsened considerably as a result of COVID-19 due to the massive use of masks, gloves and medical material, among others.

"We all know that the detection of the virus is done by q-PCR, but what we don't know is that each measure generates 37 grams of plastic. So, by August 2020, 15,000 tonnes of plastic had been generated worldwide due to PCRs alone," he explained. The solution for Barceló is to eliminate disposable plastics, produce more biodegradable plastic, develop more legislation in this area, involve society and NGOs and repeat many microplastic monitoring programmes. Precisely, it will be the environmental monitoring programmes with professionals from different fields (chemistry, ecology, ecotoxicology, hydrology, hydromorphology, etc.) that will be renewed with technology to identify new pollutants, such as nanomaterials, the key element for water quality, without forgetting the improvement in wastewater treatment, he pointed out. "Water reuse is becoming increasingly important and is gaining momentum every day, especially in a scenario of water scarcity.

In this sense, the director of the ICRA also referred to the negative effects of climate change, since "not everything that happens in water, especially the effects on organisms, is the fault of chemistry". Decreasing water flows due to drought and rising temperatures will lead to higher pollution in rivers, "just because of the concentration effect of pollutants in the water". Among them are pesticides, one of the compounds that pose the greatest risk of toxicity. In his speech: Pollutants and water quality: the urgent challenge of a global and local vision, the director of the ICRA reviewed his scientific career focused on the identification and effects of new pollutants and the evaluation of technologies to reduce this pollution.

Damià Barceló Cullerés, a native of Menàrguens and brother of the writer Joan Barceló, was sponsored by Ramon Batalla, professor of Geography at the UdL, who highlighted Barceló's joint work with the River Dynamics Research Group (RIUS) of the UdL in projects such as SCARCE  on the effects of climate change on the rivers of the Iberian Peninsula. He underlined his multidisciplinary spirit: "Thanks to researchers like him, who have gone to the frontiers of their science to seek knowledge from other disciplines, leaving their comfort zone, we have a better understanding of systems as complex as rivers," said Batalla.

A research professor at the Institute of Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies of the CSIC in Barcelona and also a professor at King Saud University (Saudi Arabia), Barceló holds the Jaime I Prize for Environmental Protection (2007), the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Water Prize of Saudi Arabia (2012), and the Recipharm International Environmental Award (2012) and is an honorary doctorate from the University of Ioannina (Greece). His research career has focused on water quality, particularly the development of methods to monitor organic contamination of so-called emerging pollutants (pesticides, detergents, endocrine disruptors, drugs, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals) in natural and waste waters, and since 2010 he has been among the most internationally cited scientists.

These are some of the features of his professional career that the rector of the UdL, Jaume Puy, has highlighted of the new doctor honoris causa. Puy praised not only the importance and solidity of his analytical work, which has disturbed the interests of large corporations "that do everything possible to preserve their business", but also his public interest, such as the European directive 91 / 271 that made it compulsory to treat urban wastewater, as well as the possibility of developing public health studies based on data on pollutants in wastewater. In this sense, the rector said that "their work is also being useful for monitoring the incidence of SARS-CoV-2".

Puy also spoke in his speech about water, "one of the great concerns of humanity" and warned that overexploitation, pollution and climate change will generate serious problems of scarcity, especially in the countries of the south, due to the inequitable distribution of water in the world. "It is estimated that by the year 2025 more than two thirds of humanity will suffer some kind of water stress," said the rector. Puy, a chemist like Barceló, called on everyone to take responsibility for preserving our water and pointed out that we must work on recycling water, "because it is more profitable and easier to recycle fresh water than salt water, to reuse it and clean it for different uses".

TEXT : Press UdL 

WATCH VIDEO OF THE INVESTMENT ACT (Source: Press UdL):https://youtu.be/pt5FP5FLBXg

https://www.icra.cat/files/noticia/ICRA DHC Damia Puy 600 https://www.icra.cat/files/noticia/ICRA DHC Damia grup 600 https://www.icra.cat/files/noticia/ICRA DHC Damia birret 600 https://www.icra.cat/files/noticia/ICRA DHC Damia icra 600 https://www.icra.cat/files/noticia/ICRA DHC Damia R Batalla 600
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