Weed to Paper: Chilika shows a way

The weed that once threatened to invade Chilika lagoon may actually turn out to be a reason for smile for the lake managers as well as the coastal population.

Published: 23rd November 2013 01:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd November 2013 01:44 PM   |  A+A-

Phragmites-Karka

The weed that once threatened to invade Chilika lagoon may actually turn out to be a reason for smile for the lake managers as well as the coastal population. For, a joint collaboration of Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and KIIT School of Biotechnology has found that the weed, Phragmites Karka, can be used for producing paper.

The two agencies have, actually, become successful in manufacturing paper using a laboratory scale technique.

 If scaled up, the know-how can be used for channelising the weed for commercial production and help people dependent on Chilika with livelihood options.

Given its high fibre content, Phragmites Karka is considered suitable for making paper, cardboard boxes and wood tiles using the plant’s root, stem and leaves.

“We are evaluating use of the weed for paper production using a laboratory scale technique which we developed in collaboration with KIIT School of Biotechnology. The result was excellent quality of paper and with an optimisation of the process, it could lead to an alternative livelihood source for the fishermen community,” Chief Executive of CDA Ajit Patnaik said.

In fact, raw materials in terms of availability of the weed will not be a problem since Phragmites Karka has rapidly invaded parts of northern sector of Chilika, starting from the Kalupada Ghat area. In the last 10 years, its coverage has gone up from five sq km to 50 sq km, posing a management challenge for the CDA.

The weed has been found to be alkaline tolerant and survives in highly saline condition. The reason for its rapid invasion could be attributed to changes in salinity regime in the lagoon after a new mouth was opened in 2000. With salinity rising, water hyacinths which covered large tracts of the waters, gave way to Phragmites Karka. Proliferation of the weed is also helped by increased nutrient loading from the catchment areas, alteration of natural hydrological regime, dredging as well as increased sedimentation.

The CDA is, currently, weighing its options to manage the weed as well as create economic benefits out of it. In the past, chemical applications to eliminate the invasive plant was adopted but it did not prove very successful.

“We are not rushing into any chemical treatment plan because we are analysing its biological and economic services in the wetland apart from focusing on the scaling up the paper making technology,” Patnaik added.

The findings

Given its high fibre content, Phragmites Karka is considered suitable for making paper, cardboard boxes and wood tiles using the plant’s root, stem and leaves

The result of evaluation for paper production, using a laboratory scale technique, was excellent quality of paper.  With an optimisation of the process, it could lead to an alternative livelihood source for the fishermen community

In last 10 years, its coverage has gone up from five sq km to 50 sq km, posing a management challenge for the CDA

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