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ENVIRONMENTAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

Continuously increasing population is leading to the intensive agriculture (to get greater amount of food and other products on the same limited land by the use of improved varieties of crop plants, which require higher amount of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, etc.), urbanization, industrialization, deforestation, and excessive utilization of various resources (fossil fuels, underground water, etc,). This leads to the degradation of our environment by generating various kinds ofliquid, solid, gaseous and hazardous wastes, particularly in the developed countries, where, only about 15% population consumes about 85% resources to generate about 85 % of the wastes (most of which are non-biodegradable) in comparison to the developing countries. On the other hand, in developing countries higher population, limited technological knowledge and finance facilities for the treatment of wastes are the major causes of environmental degradation. Earlier, when the population was small the environment was sustainable and the biodegradable wastes generated were easily decomposed by the decomposers. But now, the amount of waste generated is so great that the limited natural capabilities of the environment are unable to decompose it properly, particularly the toxic non-biodegradable ones, leading to the accumulation of such wastes in food chains (biomagnification of insecticides, like, dichloro dipheny I trichloro ethane or DDT, herbicides, etc.) as well as in the surroundings. Large-scale production and application of synthetic chemicals in most industrialized countries is a problem of serious concern causing serious health hazard. Organic chemicals that cannot be easily degraded by microorganisms or totally resistant to biodegradation are known as recalcitrants, e.g., lignin; whereas, synthetic compounds (foreign substances) not formed by natural biosynthetic processes are called xenobiotic compounds (that can be recalcitrants) and often have toxic effects, e.g., insecticides DDT, BHC (benzene hexachloride), etc.

The scientific and public awareness for managing a good environment is increasing since 1960s and the application of biological system, particularly the microorganisms (either single or group of microorganisms), to clean the environment (waste treatment) as well as to minimize the elease of various wastes in the environment is known as environmental biotechnology. All environmental biotechnological processes make use of metabolic activities of microorganisms. Many successful biological processes have now been developed for water, gas, soil and solid waste treatments and some of them are: