Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bicolano engineer gets DOST grant for fabrication of water lily harvester
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 4 (PNA) – A Bicolano engineer has been commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the fabrication of an improved water hyacinth harvester that is seen to benefit local fisher folk and handicraft makers in Camarines Sur.

Granted with an amount of Php247,000 for the development of a water hyacinth or water lily harvester with improved efficiency in harvesting and reducing fuel consumption was Engr. Joel Sadol of the Central Bicol Stare University of Agriculture (CBSUA) based in Pili, Camarines Sur.

The funding assistance is under the Technology-Based Enterprise Development (TBED) program of the DOST’s Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI).

DOST Regional Director Tomas Briñas on Wednesday here said the idea surrounding the project was introduced by Sadol to the DOST as a measure to address the growing problem brought about by this fast-growing wild aquatic plant in most of the region’s fresh water bodies.

The plant's uncontrolled growth dramatically impacts on the usefulness of rivers and lakes in the region, according to Briñas.

Because of its extremely invasive character, water hyacinth clogs waterways, especially rivers and streams; impede boat traffic by jamming the motor and when allowed to cover the entire surface, it drains the oxygen from the water, resulting in fish kill from asphyxiation.

It also kills other aquatic plants by using up nutrients and blocking sunlight while creating a prime habitat for mosquitoes, the classic vectors of disease, and a species of snail known to host a parasitic flatworm which causes schistosomiasis.

Apart from managing the plants, which are perennial threat in the region’s freshwater fisheries, especially in Camarines Sur’s Lake Buhi which has been pestered by a recent series of fish kill, the harvester will, on the other hand, provide opportunities for livelihood as harvested water hyacinth can be made into exotic handicrafts as well as organic fertilizers.

Briñas said that since the plants are so prolific, harvesting them for industrial use serves also as a means of environmental control.

Besides handicraft, the plant, being abundant in nitrogen content, is also being used as a substrate for biogas production and the sludge obtained from the biogas.

As fertilizer, studies revealed that soils amended with water hyacinth actually becomes more fertile and conducive to agriculture than soils amended with chemical fertilizers as the plant has distinctive fibrous qualities that provide more soil aeration and superior moisture drainage.

Its dried stems, meanwhile, are used for baskets and furniture while the fibers are used as a raw material for paper.

Government interventions like that of the Department of Trade and Industry, DOST and local units have been turning the menace of this plant into a money-making industry by providing handloom designs that are environment-friendly by way of salvaging waste to help mitigate the increase of garbage.

Buhi, the town known for the world’s smallest fish -- the sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis) -- is now also making waves in various creations made of water lilies.

From mere bags and slippers, the town’s weavers can now produce unique designs of beautifully-crafted footwear, bed sheets and other household products that are now available in the market.

Briñas said Sadol had earlier built a model water hyacinth harvester also funded by the DOST through the Philippine Council for Industry Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development and this new project, now under TBED, is an improvement in harvesting efficiency and reducing fuel consumption.

DOST-TAPI’s TBED program encourages the development of new or improved technologies that may have potential for commercialization and research and development institutes, state universities and colleges, and government offices are qualified to avail of this assistance.

For more information about TBED, interested parties may contact any of the six Provincial Science and Technology Centers in Bicol or the DOST regional office located at the Regional Government Center in Barangay Rawis here, Briñas added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/