Scientists and engineers at the Department of Science and Technology are in a race to diffuse exploding tangles of water hyacinth clogging freshwater bodies in the country.
“We are looking at the water hyacinth problem in two ways: how to remove it and how to use it”, DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo said.
“We are validating the many potential uses of water hyacinth and see what are the most appropriate options at the municipal and industrial levels”, he added. “Do we use it for handicraft or as material for biogas or garments production?”
But DOST’s immediate mission order from Malacañang is to help de-clog major river systems like the Rio Grande de Mindanao, which swamped villages along its banks and portions of Cotabato City because of massive swarm of water hyacinth.
That means a far more efficient mechanical de-clogging system than backhoes sitting on barges. “We expect to test a DOST-developed water hyacinth harvester within July” possibly in the Manggahan section of the Pasig River or in Pampanga, DOST Assistant Secretary Robert O. Dizon said wistfully.
Such harvester will work similar to commercially available models used in other tropical countries in their battle against the aquatic menace. But the design will be adapted to local conditions and will be built using locally available components, he added.
“It will create another problem if the water hyacinth clumps taken out of the river are just left along the banks. The immediate option, we think, is to use it as landfill”, adds Executive Director Amelia P. Guevara of DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development.
“Our objective should not be to totally eradicate the water hyacinth, but to control its growth” by cleaning up the rivers regularly, Guevara said. That’s because it helps preserve the ecosystem by purifying river water.
Moreover, PCIEERD is considering water hyacinth as a potential material for biogas production to enhance integrated waste management system at the municipal level.
Other than handicraft, water hyacinth can be processed into animal and fish feeds, charcoal briquette, fiber board, textile fiber, and organic fertilizer, Guevara explained.
Previously, DOST’s Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development “provided technical support to the province of Sultan Kudarat”, which transformed water hyacinth from Lake Buluan to spur province-wide cottage industries churning bags, slippers, and other quaint fashion items, PCAMRD Executive Director Cesario R. Pagdilao also disclosed. -30- Rodel G. Offemaria, S&T Media Service