Water hyacinth is a troublesome weed that comes uninvited and clogs our water bodies. Getting rid of them is a big effort.
However, here is a profitable solution. Technology to make yoga mats with dried water hyacinth is now available for commercialization. Six girls from a fishing community in Assam have developed a method to convert this nuisance to wealth.
The intervention was triggered through an initiative by North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous body under Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India to involve the entire women community associated with a collective called ‘Simang’ meaning dream, led by the 6 girls to create wealth from water hyacinth plants.
Considering all aspects of water hyacinth’s properties and the functional requirements of a product like a mat, a hand-woven 100% biodegradable and 100 % compostable mat to be used for doing Yoga was ideated as a means to provide multiple ecological and social benefits. The mat developed through fiber processing and technological interventions could improve the aquatic ecosystem of the wetland through removal of water hyacinth, help sustainable production of utility products with community engagement and generate of livelihood for indigenous communities to become completely ‘Atamanirbhar’.
As the collection, drying and preparation of the water hyacinth before using it for weaving is the most important process, small interventions of technology were introduced like using ‘solar dryer’which reduced the drying time to about 3 days. It could also compensate for the loss in time due to heavy rains that take place very frequently in this part of the country over a six month long rainy season (May-October).
The girls belong to the fishing community living in the fringe of the Deepor Beel, a permanent freshwater lake in south west of Guwahati city, recognised as a Ramsar Site (a wetland of international importance) and a bird wildlife sanctuary. The lake has been a source of livelihood for 9 villages of the fishing community who shared this biome for centuries, but over the years suffered from excessive growth and accumulation of water hyacinth.
The women wove water hyacinth using traditional Assamese loom with the help of different combinations of techniques, materials and tools to develop a high quality, comfortable and thoroughly biodegradable and compostable Yoga Mat. It has resulted in engagement of 38 women from 3 fringe villages (Keotpara, NotunBasti and Borbori). Technology intervention could also increase the production rate.
For more details, contact: Prof. ArunK. Sarma, Director General, North East Centre for Technology Application & Reach (NECTAR) (011 26566778; 7358473508).