Repurposing Water Hyacinth for the Better

One earth, a mosaic of blue and green, perfectly balancing all living things. But what happens when blue spaces turn green?

With the passage of time species travel and become aliens on a planet of their own. Colonizing new territories, competing with the natives. It is a gruesome war where the Invasive Alien Species eventually takes over and modifies the entire landscape.

A water body is a true reflection of the catchment area. The excess nutrient load and runoff from the surrounding areas make it more vulnerable to biological invasion. An invasive aquatic plant (IAP) if left unchecked takes over the entire open water area cutting off the crucial sunlight for the submerged life. At the end of the season when the plant dies the waterbody is overburdened with organic biomass whose decomposition depletes the dissolved oxygen. Be it the alligator weed in Wular lake or the paragrass invasion in Loktak lake. IAPs are killing our wetlands softly. One such traveler that naturalized frost-free wetlands around the world is Water hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes). It was introduced as an ornamental plant in gardens. But in the absence of a natural predator or competition, it rapidly spread to every suitable habitat. Their mat-like proliferation is a hindrance to water transport, irrigation canals, and hydropower generation. Their presence increases the rate of evapotranspiration gradually sucking the life and water of the lake.

Nature action

In an attempt to restore the balance in wetlands EFI regularly harvests huge biomass of water hyacinth. Once removed from the water body the plants are sun-dried to reduce their biomass. Trenches are then dug on the sides where the plants are deposited and layered with soil. This organic biomass undergoes composting for 2 months and serves as the base of our native species plantation. The manure is also used in Open space recreation areas.

Fig : Water Hyacinth Collection by Excavator, it is only possible @ depth-3ft

Fig: Collection by Manpower,@ depth more than 3ft

Fig : Hyacinth removal in progress

Fig : Perforated bucket and hyacinth removal

Fig : Collected water hyacinth biomass being sundried

Fig : Building trenches for water hyacinth composting near lake bed

Water Hyacinth Repurpose Centre( WHRC)

With a vision to convert waste to wealth, the WHRC was set up in Kanyakumari. Converting an invasive plant into a natural resource and creating local employment is seen as the key highlight of this project.

The water hyacinth is treated to deliver end products such as

  1. Garden-mulch manure (80%)
  2. Paper(10 %)
  3. Handicrafts. (10 %)

Under phase 1 which is expected to run for nearly 12 months, a total of nearly 12-15000 tons of water hyacinth repurposing by employing 15-18 individuals is targeted.

Fig : WHRC @ Tirunelveli

Invasive aquatic plants are here to stay. Finding a solution to utilize this huge biomass profitably is the only way to balance the mosaic of blue and green.

Stay tuned to know more about what goes inside WHRC. Also, drop-in any queries you might have in the comment box

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