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About UNEP
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United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
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Freshwater Management Series No. 7

Phytotechnologies

A Technical Approach in Environmental Management

IV. IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE APPLICATION OF PHYTOTECHNOLOGIES

People washing in a river

An understanding of the potential and limitations of phytotechnologies is crucial for their successful application. Limitations include insufficient knowledge and expertise regarding plant selection and the factors which influence plant growth, ecosystem interactions, and potential uses, as well as public and regulator y acceptance. Each application of phytotechnology involves site-specific considerations and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The developers and proponents of phytotechnology systems must be able to demonstrate how phytotechnology will meet environmentalperformance objectives and minimize risk to both human and environmental health.

When phytotechnology applications are being considered, regulatory personnel, the public and stakeholders should be involved at the conceptualization stage. Regulators are responsible for testing, evaluating and reporting on the performance of technologies. The public and other stakeholders will gain confidence in the application of a given phytotechnology if they have access to data which demonstrates that it is appropriate for a given site. All concerned require demonstrated evidence that phytotechnologies will meet performance expectations and regulatory standards with minimal risk to human health and the environment.

To determine if a particular phytotechnology application is appropriate, the following criteria should be considered and evaluated by regulatory personnel, site owners and stakeholders:

Overall protection of human health and the environment – It is essential to determinewhether the phytotechnology eliminates, reduces or controls threats to public health andthe environment.
Compliance with regulatory requirements – This is important to ensure that theproposed phytotechnology application meets environmental statutes, regulations, andother requirements that pertain to the site.
Long term effectiveness – This must consider the ability of the phytotechnology toprotect, human health and the environment over time and the reliability of such protection,including the degree of certainty that its application will prove successful.
Short term effectiveness – This should consider the length of time needed to implementthe phytotechnology and the risks it may pose to workers, residents and the environmentduring implementation.
Implementability – This should consider the technical and administrative feasibility ofimplementing the phytotechnology, and its practicality, the requirements forimplementation, and the availability of goods and services that may be needed.
Cost – It is necessary to take into account the overall capital costs, as well as the ongoing operation and maintenance costs.
Government and community acceptance – This involves the determination of the overall acceptability of the studies and evaluations that are undertaken, as well as the necessary approvals for the phytotechnology application to proceed.

The application of phytotechnology involves more than going to a site and planting seedlings, grass or some other type of plant. Phytotechnology is an in situ approach that requires careful cons ideration of site-specific characteristics. A checklist should be used to plan and review the effectiveness of the technology, thereby providing the site owners, technology proponents, designers, regulators, and other stakeholders with a common set of data requirements and expectations. The checklist should include:

Site visit
Baseline site characterization and review of site characterization data, including an agronomic assessment of the site
Determination of the environmental objectives for the site and how the phytotechnology will achieve environmental goals
Project expectations of the site owner, regulators, stakeholders, and the public, including the identification of stakeholder and public concerns
Experience and expertise of the phytotechnology design team
Proposed phytotechnology system design and estimated time to undertake the project
Feasibility studies for plant selection using laboratory tests and greenhouse studies
Operations and maintenance plan
Plan to deal with any secondary wastes (i.e., contaminated plants) that may be generated
Overall monitoring plan
Contingency plan.
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