Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has partnered with the University of Johannesburg and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to conduct scientific research into the fields of water purification and microalgal biotechnology, according to a press release last month.
"This is an international partnership that will benefit the peoples of South Africa, Israel and other countries around the world,” said BGU’s Vice President for External Affairs Prof. Amos Drory on occasion of the signing. Drory and Prof. Derek van der Merwe, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Johannesburg, signed the research collaboration agreement in South Africa.
"The two universities will become involved in extremely important, evolutionary research that will mainly benefit third world countries throughout the world,” said Dr. Bertram Lubner, Vice-Chairman of BGU’s Board of Governors and president of the SA Associates of Ben-Gurion University (SAABGU).
Prof. Sammy Boussiba and Prof. Yoram Oren from Ben Gurion University’s Blaustein Institute for Desert Research will head up the projects in Israel working together with Prof. Bhekie Mamba, leading the South African research teams. They will be assisted by Prof. Eric Hoek, an expert in the fields of water purification and microalgal biotechnology at UCLA.
According to Prof. Mamba, the two universities will brainstorm on how they can contribute to ongoing South African research into water purification in rural areas and around the Hartbeespoort Dam near Pretoria. In addition, they will research the feasibility of harvesting algae from the Dam and converting it to energy. The Hartbeespoort Dam remediation programme is being implemented by the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) to address the imbalances and unhealthy biological conditions in the dam.
"We will investigate how we can contribute and add value to this ongoing project,” said Prof. Mamba. Ongoing research into the use of membranes to purify water in rural areas will also benefit from the UJ, BGU and UCLA collaboration.
"We will look at the effective treatment of dam and river water used for drinking in rural areas,” he continued. "Here, the pollution is not industrial, but microbial. We need to address the issue of bacteria and viruses into the water, and we will be looking at what role UJ and BGU can play. "We hope to come up with a low-cost, low-maintenance solution geared for rural areas,” Prof. Mamba said.