Water hyacinth is a freshwater weed, generally considered a problematic aquatic plant. It grows very fast in ponds, streams, and rivers. Water hyacinth covers the entire water body like a mat causing oxygen depletion for fish, clogging of dams, and preventing river transportation and fishing. Municipalities and waste management organizations in India have been trying hard to clean the water bodies but the weed does not get destroyed completely. The removed weeds are either dumped in landfills or burnt. Disposal of the never-ending weeds increases the burden on landfills while burning causes pollution.
Taking into account the problems of the aquatic weed Ajay Multipurpose Organization in Chandrapur has been working to convert the weeds into useful products. The president of the organization, Swati Dhotkar says, “Nothing is wasted in this world”.
Ajay multipurpose organization has developed an innovative method to use the problematic aquatic weeds and at the same time contribute to saving the environment. The project has been running in the district for more than two years. A group of people proficient in swimming is used for the removal of weeds from the water bodies. The stems are dried and then rolled into strips using special equipment that has been exclusively designed for the process. Skilled artists use these strips to make bags, files, yoga mats, lamp stands, and similar products.
The products are durable, easy to use, and are environment friendly.
The bags, yoga mats, files, etc. are being used widely and are considered to be a good option to avoid plastic. The benefits of using these products are: (i) Reduce usage of plastic bags (ii) Reduce pollution caused due to burning of weeds and (iii) Reduce the burden on landfills. Besides the environmental concerns, the project has helped make women financially independent. The organization works in remote villages. These villages have agriculture as the main occupation. Owing to the increasing cases of man-animal conflicts the women hesitate to work in fields. Many others never go to work due to the stereotypes. But the initiative of the organization has provided training to more than 200 women. Some of the women are working as master trainers and others are working as skilled artists.
The raw material is provided to women and they work at their home. They get paid for the products and thus they are earning being at home. The members of the organization are trying to expand their work by involving more women and creating facilitation centers where women can come together and work.
The unique and innovative project is converting waste weed to wealth. It is serving to save the environment. It is working to provide sustainable livelihood to many women and the numbers are increasing.
Thoughts by :
Assistant Professor, RCERT, Chandrapur
Author, Freelance Trainer, and Motivational Speaker