Thiruvananthapuram

Turning a menace into a boon

A grama panchayat in the district is turning to sustainable solutions to rid the Vellayani freshwater lake of water hyacinth, an invasive aquatic weed that has been wreaking havoc in waterbodies across the State.

If things pan out well, the Kalliyoor grama panchayat will soon have a programme for manufacturing various products from the water weed, providing an alternative income source for the local people.

Training

Recently, the panchayat organised a training programme for Kudumbashree and Asha workers with technical support from the Centre for Research on Aquatic Resources (CRAR) at SD College, Alappuzha, and Ecoloop360, a small start-up at Government Engineering College, Barton Hill.

Raw material

Both entities have been using water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) as raw material for making useful products such as handicrafts, art canvas, and disposables like plates and biomass briquettes which can be used in factory boilers.

“Water hyacinths have emerged as a major concern in the lake, on which a number of water supply schemes are dependent. The Kerala Water Authority has even installed nets around its pumping station here to prevent the weeds from floating in,” R Jayalakshmi, president of the panchayat said.

“Although several groups have attempted to clear the weeds from the lake, they have not been successful,” Ms. Jayalakshmi said, adding that the panchayat would prepare a masterplan for the scheme to produce value-added products from this South American water weed.

Participatory model

The idea is to make fishermen and lotus farmers who go out into the lake collect the water hyacinths. They will then be sun-dried and processed for manufacturing various products.

“We are studying whether the weed menace can be tackled using a participatory model,” Dr Nagendra Prabhu, who heads the CRAR, said.

“We can manufacture pulp-based products such as file boards, art canvas and eco-friendly nursery pots from the water hyacinth. The CRAR had trained 40 persons in Alappuzha municipality last year,” he said.

Biomass briquettes

Ecoloop360, founded by translational engineers Abhijith S., Greeshma M.R. and Ardra S. Nair, had developed biomass briquettes from water hyacinth.

“Around 15 boats go out on the lake every day. If they can collect the weeds, we can control the weed invasion to an extent. We can also create a sustainable livelihood if products can be manufactured from it,” said Mr. Abhijeet, who hails from Kalliyoor.

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Printable version | Apr 29, 2021 8:33:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/turning-a-menace-into-a-boon/article26208094.ece

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