Understanding the Environmental and Economic Benefits of Aquaculture

Over the last few decades, rising incomes and improved living standards have fuelled demand for animal protein, including seafood. Historically, human beings have opted for immediacy in consumption rather than focusing on sustainability. As a result, several aquatic species and even habitats are at risk from rampant and unchecked commercial fishing. Often checks come into play after whole species are on the verge of extinction and sometimes not even then.

Greater awareness of seafood’s health benefits and changing consumer lifestyles will increase consumption levels by 80% by the mid-century. However, growing demand has also brought supply issues to the forefront. The oceans may have once provided bountiful quantities, but with exponentially growing populations, pollution and aggressive wild capture fishing practices, this is no longer the case. The practice of aquaculture is the farm raising of aquatic animals and plans for commercial consumption. Aquaculture increases the availability of aquatic protein and supports the rebuilding of species moving towards extinction.

Trout, shellfish, eel, shrimp, and catfish are a few aquatic species that can be farm bred. While enabling specific species to thrive in water seems simple enough, it also involves managing water conditions like controlling oxygen and ammonia levels, pH levels, feeding, and other maintenance activities. Unfortunately, aquaculture also leads to an imbalance in aquatic life due to extremely high usage of fertilisers in the water, faecal deposits, variations in the pH level in the water, and a few other causes.

Microorganisms play a vital role in balancing water’s health since they help manage organic waste. Microorganisms feed on plankton, faeces and uneaten feed, thereby reducing the amount of organic waste generation. Aquaculture is suitable for both fresh and saltwater. From feeding organisms to maintaining water quality, human intervention at every step allows for successful aquaculture practices.

Advantages of Aquaculture

  1. Economic benefits
    With the growing demand for seafood, aquaculture also helps create jobs and increase economic revenue in various industries. From Breeding to the sale of seafood, a massive set of management requires manual labour with both specialised and non-specific skills.  Fish farming has helped create jobs since it leads to the processing, transportation, and storage of seafood, with local restaurants flourishing, creating a tremendous economic opportunity for many.
  2. Environmental benefits
    Aquaculture is cost-efficient when it takes place along the shoreline due to easy access. In addition, it helps avoid the spread of Seaweed and molluscs. While there are compliances that the aquaculture farmers need to comply with to ensure environmentally safe practices, aquaculture helps to ease the pressure on wild stock. The constant inspection also helps curtail unsustainable fishing methods like bottom trawling.
  3. Save Species from Extinction:
    Various species in the marine environment are facing extinction. Overfishing, imbalance in species population, and environmental pollution play a vital role in the extinction of marine life. Aquaculture helps regulate the imbalance and helps keep the marine environment clean and free of contamination.
  4. Study of marine life:
    While humans have spent excessive money studying outer space, much less has been spent understanding the underwater species. Aquaculture enables experts better to understand the behavioural patterns and habits of aquatic animals so that we can support their survival better.

Disadvantages of Aquaculture

  1. Imbalance in the ecosystem
    Aquaculture, like farming, requires specific resources which are otherwise abundantly used by the natural environment. When fish farmers continuously use the resources, it depletes the stock,  leads to a conflict and causes an imbalance in the ecosystem.
  2. Lack of diversity
    When not bred for food, farmed fish are released into the wild, which in turn causes an imbalance in the diversity.  While aquaculture has many benefits, frequent human intervention and controlled activities do need an imbalance in the ecosystem.
  3. The health of aquatic animals
    Diseases in marine life are known to have wiped out a tremendous amount of aquatic life rapidly in the past. Similarly, diseases among cultivated marine creatures can wipe out an entirely aquatic species.
  4. Water contamination
    Fish feed, their discharge, acidity level variations in water and other contamination from the habitats can lead to diseases in the aquatic creatures and cause contamination of water sources.

Aquaculture helps meet the growing demands of seafood, restore water sources, offer health benefits to humans due to sustainable methods of producing protein, helps create economic opportunities through the creation of jobs, and is an excellent way of preserving local culture. While aquafarming has many pros and cons, it is vital to ensure its sustainable practices and curb any harmful activities to marine life or the ecosystem. However, when managed appropriately and adhered to the standards, it can be a very sustainable method of sourcing seafood and a lucrative business opportunity.

What is Aquaculture, and Why Do We Need It? (

Using Nature and Science To Remediate Temple Ponds
Using nature and science to remediate temple ponds

Temples are a place of worship. They also serve as a common gathering place for various community events, cultural interactions and religious rituals that many people visit daily. Often temple ponds are hotbeds of contamination from ritual bathing, dumping of organic waste, urinal overflow and other human activities. Period cleaning and remediation of temple ponds using environmentally friendly and sustainable maintenance methods can help manage cleaning cost-effectively and help curtail any ecosystem imbalance.

The temple ponds help recharge groundwater which helps improve the water ecosystem.

Most of the temple ponds have become unusable and home to vast beds of macrophytes making the water stinky and unfit for use to all living beings. While the maintenance of temple ponds is vested in the hands of temple authorities and village panchayats, cleaning up these vital water sources and ensuring a balance in the ecosystem and avoiding turning them into breeding grounds for various diseases is the need of the hour.

The bioremediation cleaning method uses biological organisms like enzymes, bacteria, and even plants to clean and restore water sources. The bioremediation method includes adding beneficial plants, microbes, and enzymes into the pond. It helps to break the organic waste into smaller degradable parts. While the chemical process is faster, it damages the balance in the ecosystem to a large extent. In addition, it releases harmful gasses in the process, which may affect living beings and cause health issues ranging from skin irritation to breathing problems. On the other hand, the bioremediation process is an efficient and effective method that is free of chemicals, can reduce nitrates and phosphorus present in water, stimulate algae growth, and is also environmentally safe.

Enzymes And Bioaugmentation
Enzymes are a part of all living beings on earth. They play a vital role in activities like digesting food in our stomach, breaking down organic things like dead plant cells, accumulation of leaves, waste from aquatic life, and degradation of any organic substance. In addition, enzymes work as catalysts and enable converting the organic waste into different types of bacteria or make it available for bacteria to eat them. While this seems like a standard augmentation method, enzymes play a vital role in degrading organic waste and keeping the water sources clean.

Bacteria And Bioaugmentation
Microbes are one of the most vital elements available in natural ponds, and they get eaten by aquatic animals. While this seems like a normal life cycle, it also works as a cleanup process for the ponds. However, not all bacteria are suitable for the degradation process since it accumulates waste in ponds, posing a problem. The resultant is a natural build-up of algae which usually grows at the bottom of the pond.

From Sanitary management to organic solid waste management, from septic tank management to low-cost bioremediation of ponds, tons of areas require environmentally friendly management methods in the temples.

Bioremediation of Ponds/ Lakes
Ponds/ Lakes are a vital part of temples as the water is used for holy dips by worshippers, offerings, cleaning purposes of deities, temple premises, and other important religious activities. It leads to disposal of temple trash, and other practices can lead to contamination of water, resulting in solid odour, increase of algal growth, higher oxygen levels, increase in organic sludge, damage to aquatic life in the pond, thereby spreading diseases.

Bioremediation methods help reduce the odour and sludge in the water through environmentally friendly methods. It also helps to decompose organic waste and enables the reduction of ammonia, nitrite, and sulfide in water.

Bioremediation of temple ponds not only keeps it clean but also helps to keep the aquatic life healthy. While the traditional chemical methods are heavy on cost and harmful materials, bioremediation helps keep the temple ponds clean and hygienic with sustainable cleaning methods. Regular maintenance, constant monitoring, sustainable cleaning methods, and hygienic waste management methods are some of the best ways to keep temple ponds and premises clean and hygienic.

Open Drains
Understanding Bioremediation to resolve challenges of Open drainage systems.

Open drains were used initially for discharging rainwater by collecting them through various channels and directing it towards a water source. While this helped avoid flooding and enabled improved water source levels, open drains eventually became a dumping ground for domestic, agricultural, and manufacturing waste leading to blockages, unhealthy odour, and poor management. In addition, lack of maintenance by the associated government bodies and negligence by the general public has led to drains that rarely function as they are supposed to leading to very unhealthy surrounding, mainly in the urban areas.

Open drainage has been a challenge that has been unmanageable for far too long. Whether its hazardous impact on human health or the environment, addressing the challenges of open drainage is the need of the hour. Open drainage is a breeding ground for numerous diseases ranging from typhoid to diarrhoea, asthma, and other stomach infections due to breathing the contaminated odour. In addition, open drainage carries the toxic chemical discharge from industries, faeces, and pesticides from agricultural fields mixed with freshwater sources and causes severe contamination levels.

Water crisis, mounting challenges to sewage treatment systems due to the growing population, untreated sewage from industries, agriculture, and human activities have added to the existing issues. Open drainage exposes human discharge and poses numerous threats to the environment and all living beings. It is about time to replace the open drainage systems. Cleaning them up without causing an imbalance to the ecosystem and health threats to humankind can be pretty challenging.

Thanks to bioremediation methods that are entirely natural, non-toxic, and safe. While open drains can cause many challenges ranging from lousy odour to health hazards, using harsh chemicals to clean up will do more harm than good. The process of bioremediation involves the removal of waste through organisms. Specific combinations of bacteria help form biofilms and odour control inflowing wastewater.

A biofilm is a group of microorganisms that clean up based on the type of water body. In some cases, biofilms use various removal methods like bioaccumulation, biosorption, biomineralisation, and biodegradation. Biofilms break down the microbial population and digest various contaminants, irrespective of the removal method.

Bioremediation involves various steps like:

  • Attaching themselves to the microorganisms
  • Hydrogen bonding
  • Forming a monolayer of microbe colonies on the water surface
  • Attaching themselves to the debris
  • Creating new bacteria and dispersion of bacteria.

Bacteria and fungi play a vital role in the process of bioremediation. These microbes help to break down the waste into organic matter.

Contaminated water is usually purified through chemical treatment, burying in a landfill, or bioremediation techniques. While the latter two are highly toxic and may cause considerable damage to the ecosystem, the bioremediation method is the most natural and sans any chemical usage. On the other hand, the incineration method involves burning waste and other unwanted substances. This method, also called thermal treatment, leaves behind gas and heat generated from organic waste and ash from the inorganic material.

There are three types of bioremediation:

Biostimulation, as the name suggests, involves the stimulation of bacteria. When it comes to contact with other components in the form of gas/ liquid, the particular nutrient substances lead to the stimulation of microbes and helps remove contaminants.

Bioaugmentation involves adding bacterial culture for the degradation of contaminants. While organisms already present in the waste are at work, they may be slow. Adding new culture to the mix helps to speed up the process. While this works best for municipal wastewater, there is also the challenge of no control over the growth of microorganisms.

The third type of bioremediation is the intrinsic method that works best to clean up underground petroleum tanks where leakage and contamination are difficult to detect, and microorganisms do their best to clean up the toxins.

Bioremediation offers several benefits. Eco-friendly, cost-efficient, and scalability tops the list.

  • Bioremediation techniques are one of the best methods used to clean up water sources, improve air quality, and manage the health of the soil. It is also a less intrusive method that does not damage the ecosystem and cause any harm to human health.
  • Conventional methods of wastewater treatment come with a considerable cost. However, the bioremediation methods use cost-efficient technology and cleaning methods.
  • Bioremediation methods are scalable. Due to its flexibility, cleaning up massive water sources to smaller landfills is all manageable with bioremediation.

Enzymes are a vital part of the bioremediation process. Enzymes are those proteins that group and help in breaking down pollutants. Bacteria secrete these enzymes and can react a hundred thousand times faster than uncatalysed reactions. These reactions further get consumed by microorganisms. Enzymes choose the substrates that they would like to manufacture or destroy. When enzymes come in contact with molecules, they form an enzyme-substrate complex. It helps to weaken the chemical bond, degrade it through catabolism, and break them into simpler molecules.

While all enzymes take birth from within a cell, endoenzymes are the intracellular enzymes that work inside the cell. The extracellular enzymes also called exoenzymes, work outside the cell membrane. However, when both of them are in the same area, they begin competing for food, and the weaker one of them will disappear. Therefore, the bioremediation cleaning method helps remove sludge and odour and is also the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solution.


Open drainage system continues to be one of the challenges that need urgent addressing. While there are many methods of clean up to stop them from contaminating the water sources, bioremediation methods are the best considering they are non-toxic, cost-efficient, use zero chemicals, and help restore the ecosystem. In addition, bacteria and fungi play a vital role in cleaning up the sludge and are the most eco-friendly cleaning method.

Water User Committees an Inclusive Impact Model
Water User Committees: an inclusive impact model

Providing safe access to water and sanitation facilities is a social and demographic imperative and a key driver for gender justice. UN world Water Development Report 2021, released on 21st March 2021, with the theme of ‘Valuing Water’ noted that one of the reasons for mismanagement of water is a failure to recognize the variant value of water and lack of involvement of multiple actors in decisions related to water usage. Given that divergent stakeholder groups accord different value to water, an inclusive and holistic approach to water management is thus recommended, for policies and practices related to water governance to be developed and implemented in an equitable manner.

There is substantial evidence to indicate that lack of access to safe water and sanitation facilities disproportionately affect girls and women. First, women and girls continue to have the bulk of care responsibilities (in rural communities in particular), which includes managing the water supply and water usage, as per household needs. Second, lack of access to water facilities require young girls and women to travel long distances to access water for household needs, which precludes them from any kind of sustainable participation in education or any form of sustainable employment. Data collected across ninety (90) countries in the last decade (2001-2019) provides evidence that women spend disproportionately more time (2.5 times more hours than men) on unpaid house-work and care work, with this figure increasing post-pandemic (SGD Report, 2021). Third, as per SDG Report 2021, violence against women continues to be at unacceptably high levels, with nearly one in three women (736 million) subjected to some form of violence. As per evidence from India, lack of access to toilets at home, doubles the risk of sexual violence for women, in comparison with those who have access to toilet facilities (Jadhav et. al. 2016). Fourth, lack of access to safe water and hygiene facilities at school leads girls to quit school as soon as they reach puberty, further precluding them from vital learning experiences that are crucial for their long-term human capital development and economic and emotional emancipation.

Given this debilitating impact on women due to of lack of access to water and sanitation facilities, their involvement and voice in water resource management is a global imperative, to arrive at gender just policies and resource allocations (Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021). UN-Water 2021 reports that ‘fewer than 50 countries have laws or policies that specifically mention women’s participation for rural sanitation or water resources management’. Further a recent report from Global Water Partnership and UNEP-DHI, 2021, provides evidence that inclusion of women, in particular, as equal partners in water resource management, is in its nascent stages, with the compartmentalized and adhoc approaches, failing to impact policy and practice significantly.

It is against this background that Water for People India’s Water User Committees (WUC), is an important step in the right direction.

Water for People India: Everyone Forever Model

Water for People (WFP) India’s Everyone Forever Model (implemented in alignment with WFP global vision and mission) has inclusivity at its core. Specifically, the impact model takes a holistic and multi-stakeholder approach to strengthen the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) ecosystem for sustainable and scalable impact. Since beginning its operations in 1996, WFP India’s WASH solutions have positively impacted more than one million people in India, through working in collaboration with relevant partners in the public and private sectors and NGOs, among others. In particular, WFP India’s extant WASH initiatives across key blocks in West Bengal, Bihar and Maharashtra, are implemented in alignment with the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (2014) and Jal Jivan Mission (2019) mandate for a bottom-up approach to sustainable change.

Water User Committees (WUC): A community-based approach to water governance and water resource management


The WFP India WUCs are built on a community-based approach to change, with one WUC for each water point. WUCs generally comprise seven (7) to fifteen (15) members, from the specific households that use the water point. Three (3) office bearers are elected for a term by the WUC, from within the community.

Capacity Building

The WFP India project teams provide WUC members with formal and informal capacity development opportunities on a range of skills including, operation and maintenance, maintaining accounts (income and expense on various heads, handling petty cash, etc.), organizing and minuting meetings and liaising with jalabandhus and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). There is also evidence of cascading of this learning, as WUCs who are trained provide technical support to their PRIs and Village Water Sanitation Committees (VWSCs).

Specifically, WUCs perform the following key functions:

  • Ensure Operation and Maintenance of the water point
  • Tariff setting and collection
  • Minor repairs of the water point
  • Maintain cleanliness around the water points
  • Liaise with the Jalabandhus for repairs of water points
  • Liaise with the panchayat for resource allocations for major maintenance work (to cover the cost of labor and materials)
  • Management of funds, including payment to hand-pump operators
  • Scheduling and leading monthly meetings to discuss tariff collection, water supply operations and management

Women as agentic change makers

WFP India has formed eighty-three (83) WUCs since 2019 in Birbhum District of West Bengal, comprising a total of nine hundred and thirty-one (931) members. Four hundred and eighty-two (482) members out of the 931 are women (53% of the WUCs). Further, twenty-five (25) WUCs have more than sixty percent (60%) female representation and eleven (11) WUCs currently have more than 70% female representation, with some WUCs being fully comprised of, and led by, women.

The bottom-up change model as implemented through the WUCs, is built on the paradigm of opportunity creation for exercising leadership amongst women, and enabling the same through continuous capacity building, across a range of functions. Evidence from the field indicates an increased sense of ownership and commitment amongst these women, transforming them from powerless recipients to agentic designers of change, within their homes and communities.

Rebati Pahariya, a tribal woman from Kalyanpur Adivasi Para, states ‘The water point and the community meetings have motivated me. I am now confident in public speaking and have participated in para baithaks with the panchayat members’.

SK Sahanaz, a local panchayat member, from Hajratpur Panchayat, remarks ‘There has been a change among people of Kalyanpur Adivasipara’, ‘(they) have voiced their needs for the first time in last Gram Sabha. In January 2020, WFP provided a water point here and formed and trained a WUC. The motivated members of the newly formed WUC were instrumental in sharing their needs for a water connection in the Gram Sabha, which was duly acknowledged, and in October 2020 a community tap connection was provided.’

Evidence from another constituency (Khoyrasol) indicates that a total of eighteen (18) WUCs have taken action in the past six months alone, to improve water supply. Further, five WUCs in Rajnagar reported an improvement in water supply since they were constituted, with all having levied token tariffs.

The holistic impact on water resource management is also evident as per feedback from WFP India partners on the ground, who note that the WUCs meet two conditions for improved water resource management. The first is through the collection of water tariffs from the beneficiaries (local villagers of that community) to cover the cost of operation and maintenance, thereby developing a sense of ownership, as well as greater efficiency and accountability towards the assets installed in their locality. The second is an increase in the participation in decision making leading to more sustainable water usage and more equitable sharing of benefits, contributing to overall wellbeing and resilience of the communities involved, with women at the heart of this transformation.


Since women are disproportionately affected by lack of access to WASH facilities their involvement in key decisions related to water resource management is necessary for achieving gender justice in water usage. WUC committees are an impactful strategy for gender mainstreaming water resource management, with long term implications for achieving both SDD#5 and SDG#6.5.1 goal. It is evident that WUC provides opportunities for agency creation, through education and skill-building, which then acts as a conduit for their engaged participation at the community level, with direct and indirect impacts on their continued empowerment. In addition, empowered women who understand the significance of WASH will accelerate behavioural change at home and in their communities, thereby creating a multiplier effect for continued achievement of gender parity across the various interrelated SDGs.


1 UN Water Report, 2021. Available url: Accessed 01-06-2022

2 SDG Report, 2021. Available url: Accessed 02-06-2022

3 Jadhav, A., Weitzman, A. & Smith-Greenaway, E. Household Sanitation facilities and women’s risk on non-partner sexual violence in India. BMC Public Health, 16, 1139. Cited in Accessed 02-03-2022

4 SDG Report, 2021. Available url: Accessed 02-06-2022

5 Global Water Partnership and UNEP-DHI, 2021. Advancing towards gender mainstreaming in water resources management. Available, url:—report.pdf, Accessed 01-03-2022.

6 Jal Jivan Mission (2019). Available at url: Accessed 03-03-2022

7 Jalabandhus in India.  Available at url: Accessed 01-03-2022

This post has been authored by Payyazhi Jayashree, Vice President of Water for People India Trust Board

Oil Spills
Understanding oil spill, its impact and process of remediation.
Oil dispersed onto the environment either accidentally or through a natural calamity can cause a severe imbalance in the ecosystem, whether marine or otherwise. It leads to various health problems in humans and aquatic life directly through inhalation of unpleasant smells, consuming contaminated water, and penetration into the body via skin absorption.
The leakage of hydrocarbons present in the liquid petroleum releases into the environment and causes pollution. It also leads to soil contamination, human health issues, and damage to flora and fauna. Fire incidents, natural calamities, and accidental spilling during oil transportation, which might cause vessel collisions, are a few reasons for an oil spill. In addition, oil spills can cause a multitude of agricultural problems. From low crop yield to contaminated yield and lack of plant growth to plant health, oil spills have led to numerous adverse issues.
Oil spill causes hypothermia in otters and seals due to oil coating on their fur. Furthermore, oil spills cause difficulty breathing and communication for marine mammals like dolphins and whales. Oil spills are known to have spilt from vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and The Mediterranean Sea. When exposed to oil spills, humans suffer from health issues like damage to reproductive organs, respiratory and liver damage, increased cancer risk, and lower immunity. Agriculture is another area that suffers the most due to oil spills. There are various methods of oil spill cleanup using sorbents, dispersant, natural recovery, chemical stabilisation, and bioremediation are a few popular ones. However, cleaning up oil spills in extreme climatic zones like the Arctic is challenging due to the freezing temperatures, lack of infrastructure, and poor visibility.
Impact of Oil Spills
While accidents are the leading cause of oil spills that mainly occur during transit or natural calamities, their effects on marine life, birds, human health, the environment, and a country’s economy are immense. The mammals living in the water suffer from various issues, not to mention the imbalance that it causes to the ecosystem. It takes years of effort to clean up and bring the balance back. In addition, the changes in marine life bring about a lot of negative impacts on the economy, either directly or indirectly.
Aquaculture, agriculture, and contamination of drinking water are just a few areas that get affected. It is critical to consider location, local regulations, local weather conditions, and the oil spill size while deciding the suitable remediation technique. Determining whether the oil is floating at the centre of the water body or has reached the shoreline is vital to making relevant cleanup decisions. Mechanical, chemical, and bioremediation are the three main methods of oil spill remediation.
The mechanical method involves recovering oil without changing its properties through skimmers, booms, and sorbent materials. This method helps to repurpose water and reduce waste. However, this technique requires a considerable amount of investment and logistics.
The chemical method changes the chemical and physical properties of the oil. Therefore, the chemical method involves less workforce and investment. Solidifiers, burning, and dispersants are the three main chemical remediation methods.
A particular set of microbes depend on oil contaminants, pesticides, and solvents for their source of energy and food. Stimulating the growth of such microbes is a part of the bioremediation process. These helpful microbes break down the contaminants and convert them into carbon dioxide and water.
Alcanivorax borkumensis, a rod-shaped microbe, is generally found in oceans and prefers oil-polluted surfaces since hydrocarbon molecules are a part of their diet. Alkane monooxygenase, esterase, and Lipase are a few enzymes that help break the oil and begin its degradation. Oil spill takes upto fifteen years for the ecosystem to recover and remove from a minor spill. The larger ones, however, may take much longer than that.
Hydrocarbon degradation
Resins and asphaltenes are difficult to biodegrade. However, n-alkanes – branched alkanes – low molecular weight aromatics – cyclic alkanes are the first to undergo biodegradation. Alkanes combine hydrogen and carbon atoms, and bacteria help degrade alkanes. More than half the crude oil consists of alkanes. The T1B™ oil spill releases alkane hydroxylase, which helps decompose alkane.
Enzymes are a part of all living things. There are billions of them present in most cells and are a complex type of protein. Enzymes work as catalysts in biological processes. Enzymes help expedite the processes ten times faster than the original pace. Enzymes act like a working site where a weak connection forms between molecules and enzymes. Enzymes get together with the appropriate substrates and form a complex, enabling them to weaken the chemicals in the substrate and begin the degradation through catabolism and break them into simple molecules.
The transportation of oil through vessels picked up when oil demand increased across the globe. Unfortunately, like every other mode of transport, oil containers also met with accidents causing oil spills on both soil and water bodies. While the soil contamination caused a severe change in the microbial activity and led to a deterioration of crops and low yield of new ones, it also caused severe health issues to humans and aquatic life. Cleaning up an oil spill can be challenging, especially in large water bodies. Improper clean up can take decades before it returns to normalcy. Microbes and enzymes play a vital role in cleaning oil spills. While there are numerous methods of cleaning the oil spill, the first and foremost point is to avoid them in all circumstances. A more thoughtful approach would greatly help save both humans and the ecosystem.
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