Chilika Development Authority and local communities could well reap economic benefit out of Phragmites Karka, an invasive weed, proliferation of which has so far been a botheration for them.

Phragmites Karka has spoilt scenic beauty of Chilika Lake and gradually shrunk fishing area of traditional fisher-folks.

It was challenge for scientific community to check its proliferation.

Under collaborative efforts between CDA and KIIT School of Biotechnology, researchers have discovered that the weed could be used for production of paper.

“In order to evaluate use of Phragmites Karka for paper production, a laboratory scale technique has been developed using root, stem and leaves. The method provided an excellent quality of paper which by further optimisation of process could lead to a sustainable source of alternative livelihood for fishermen communities, said CDA Chief Executive Ajit Pattnaik.

The weed has high fibre content which makes it suitable for making paper, card board boxes and wood tiles, Mr. Pattnaik said.

CDA and KIIT School of Biotechnology are currently evaluating different economic uses of Phragmites Karka which can provide sustainable livelihood and management solution for this weed.

Tolerant to alkaline

CDA Chief Executive said during past 10 years, weed has occupied space from 5 square kilometre to more than 50 sq km in Chilika.

According to CDA, this weed is well-tolerant to alkaline and high salinity conditions. Changes in salinity regimes of Chilika due to the opening of a new mouth has resulted extensive proliferation p Karka especially in the northern sector.

Invasion of this weed is also facilitated by disturbances such as increased nutrient loading from the catchment area, alteration of natural hydrologic regime, dredging, and increased sedimentation. The rapid expansion of this weed has reduced the open water area for navigation and breeding ground for fishes and birds.

Presence of Phragmites Karka in the northern zone, which represents 75 per cent of the overall freshwater inflow from Mahanadi delta distributaries into the lake, also has adverse impact on the flushing of sediments thereby leading to sediment accumulation and retention within the northern sector. In the long run, this is likely to impact the water holding capacity of the system.

To find solution to weed’s rapid proliferation, Orissa University of Agriculture Technology (OUAT) has once applied chemical to prevent the weed from growing. But the experiment could not succeed.

“We are not rushing into adopting any chemical method or management route for eliminating the Phragmites Karka. The weed could be used for nesting by birds or some fish species could have been thriving at bottom of Phragmites weeds. Researchers are currently looking into commercial viability of paper production using the weed,” said Mr. Pattnaik.