She has 4 tested ways of routing them
By Raïssa Robles
Dr. Jessamyn Adorada told me it was urgent for the government to find more sustainable ways of cutting down their numbers because hyacinths grow very very fast.
Dr. Adorada is an entomologist (insect specialist) who has done field work in the same area in Cotabato City which recently flooded due to the water hyacinth invasion. She said similar invasions are seen in and around Metro Manila.
Today’s evening news in fact said that hyacinths were also infesting the Candaba swamp in Pampanga and were being blamed for the flooding in Valenzuela.
When I was talking to Dr Adorada, I suddenly realized that her suggestions could enable residents to earn from the hyacinths. These livelihood projects could generate jobs and be jointly carried out by the Muslim rebels and the Philippine and foreign governments as part of the Mindanao peace process.
I sought and found our very own bug lady after my architect-friend, Franklyn Santos, sent me links to two National Geographic stories showing how some African countries reduced their hyacinth infestation by using bugs imported from the Amazon Basin, where hyacinths originally came from.
Here are the suggestions of Dr. Adorada, a researcher and professor at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. She told me that in one trip to Indonesia, she observed a snout beetle (the Neochetina eichhorniae) feeding on water hyacinths. The problem is, “it really doesn’t eat up the whole plant.”
She confirmed that the water hyacinths in the Philippines are the same Eichhornia crassipes that choked the wetlands of Africa. She also said we have no native beetles that feed on hyacinths. So any beetle imported for that would first have to be tested to ensure it won’t eat other plants.
Water hyacinths – also called sea grasses – are hard to eradicate because, according to The National Geographic, they can double in number in just 12 days and even if uprooted, they leave behind many seeds in the riverbed “which can last up to 15 years and which germinate as conditions become favourable.”
Water hyacinths can be used to condition the soil for planting
Dr. Adorada recalled that the soil in Cotabato was dry. She said this could be conditioned for planting by chopping up the hyacinth and laying it it on the ground along with vegetable peelings and animal manure, then turning it with soil. “After a week, that would have turned to fetilizer and the soil becomes good for planting,” she said.
Water hyacinths can be turned to organic fertilizer
“In Los Banos, when we culture vermin (worms), we include chopped-up hyacinths in their food,” she said. She said worms can be used for fishing and the worm poop is a natural fertilizer.
Water hyacinths can be used to make paper
“In our forestry area (in UP Los Baños) they are working on paper producton using water hyacinths,” she said. But she noted that paper making would need the use of chemicals.
When she said paper-making, I thought of the thousands of invitations that the Office of the President routinely sends out for various official functions involving the President. What if the President started using envelopes made of paper from the water hyacinths of Liguasan marsh? Just a thought.
Water hyacinths can be turned to fashionable sandals, furniture and household accessories
Dr Adorada noted that the hyacinths she saw on national TV being uproooted from the Rio Grande were already “woody” or mature and must have been there for years. “Only, no one was really paying attention to them until they had clogged the waterways.”
She said the only time people take the trouble to pull out hyacinths is before November 1 – when the stems are used as the base for flower arrangements brought to the cemeteries.
She noted that here and abroad, hyacinths have been turned to sandals, furniture and household accessories.
When she said that I immediately thought of Cebu’s finest furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who could perhaps help in the design and execution.
My friend and schoolmate, Jennifer Evidente – long based in Germany – also wrote this observation on my Facebook Wall:
By the way, Europe and I suppose the US is crazy about furniture, baskets, bags, picture frames, and whatever can be made out of woven water hyacinth stems. They are durable, classy although somewhat pricey. They’ve overtaken rattan as THE material of choice for that mixed modern spacy mediterranean look.
Hmmm. Cotabato could at the same time market their hyacinth products as “peacemakers.”
Just a thought.
Here are the links to the National Geographic stories that Franklyn sent me: