Turning menace into money

The Alappuzha municipality has joined hands with Haritha Keralam Mission to mint money out of a menace.

The civic body recently turned to water hyacinth, regarded as the most troublesome aquatic plant, to fetch money and bring about a positive change in the lives of people living on the banks of its vast network of canals.

It has entered into an agreement with a Madurai-based private firm to supply dried hyacinth stems. The company makes plates, bags, handicrafts among other products using stems.

“Alappuzha is the first municipality in the State to utilise water hyacinth for industrial use. The company will buy dried stems at ₹Rs. 15 per kg. The municipality will hand over the amount received from the sale to those engaged in harvesting hyacinth and drying of stems. The project will see families earn their livelihood while helping to keep the weed problem under control,” says Soumya Raj, chairperson, Alappuzha municipality.

Alappuzha, known for its labyrinthine web of canals, lakes and lagoons, has been witnessing a rapid proliferation of the floating plant, which is taking a toll on the water transport system, tourism, fishing and so on. In the initial phase, hyacinth plants on the AS Canal from Mattanchery bridge to Kommady bridge are being harvested using the local workforce. The workers were given training in harvesting the plants and drying stalks. “Apart from selling stems, leaves and roots of hyacinth will be mixed with cow dung to produce organic fertiliser,” Ms. Raj adds.

The biggest advantage of the project, according to Haritha Keralam Mission, is that it involves zero investment. “ Over the years, crores have been spent by the government to keep the invasive species under control, but to no avail. We launched the project in Alappuzha on a pilot basis and will soon be extended to 12 grama panchayats in the waterlogged Kuttanad region where the weed problem is much more rampant,” says K.S. Rajesh, district coordinator, Haritha Keralam Mission, adding the firm, which procures dried hyacinth stalks from Alappuzha municipality, is making various products and exporting them.

G. Nagendra Prabhu, principal investigator, Centre for Research on Aquatic Resources, Sanatana Dharma College, Alappuzha, says the novel initiative has got a lot of potential. "Water hyacinth is the world's fastest-growing weed and can be used as a resource for making many value-added products. It has got a lot of potential for providing alternative livelihood programmes for people who are living in the vicinity of the aquatic ecosystems," Mr. Prabhu says.

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 10:05:32 am |