The other day, on the way to the bank, I quickly stepped into an exhibit of water hyacinth products. With all the bad press that this infamous aquatic weed has been getting for aeons (and rightly so), something positive about it was definitely worth a visit.
Aqua Weaves is a term coined by the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) based in our city. The corporation has been working on water hyacinth products for the last couple of years. On display were different kinds of bags, baskets, racks, chairs, table mats, lamp-shades, jewellery boxes, trays, and many more. Very soon there will be a show room for displaying the products to provide a direct link between producers and customers.
NEDFi was set up for the development of industries, infrastructure, animal husbandry, horticulture, aquaculture, poultry and dairy in the north eastern states of India.
Driving across the plains of Assam, it’s a common sight to see ponds and lakes clogged by water hyacinth/Eichhornia crassipes. Apart from using the weed as fertiliser, the weed has so far not been put to any use unlike other countries where this aquatic weed is a nuisance too. Paper and rope are made out of it and in southeast Asian countries the plant is added to pig feed and fish feed.
Some of the products on display. Assam has a long way to go but with the raw material so abundantly available and the artisans being trained by NEDFi will ensure that more products will be introduced into domestic and foreign markets.
The dried water hyacinth stalks that go into making all the baskets and mats.
Deepor Beel, the largest wetland in our region. It’s home to several species of fish, birds, and aquatic plants. Every time I pass by this route, my heart bleeds at the sight of the weeds choking up the area. But with NEDFi’s efforts, the term ‘invasive’ or ‘weed’ does not sound so terribly unkind now.