By George Robert Valencia III
S&T Media Service
To the increasing number of water hyacinth clogging the metro waterways and elsewhere, the Department of Science and Technology has just unveiled its locally-developed solution: a machine that scoops up the plants to put them in good use.
Developed by engineers from the Department of Science and Technology’s Metals Industry Research and Development Center (DOST-MIRDC), the machine, called the Water Hyacinth Harvester, can collect and hold up to 25 kilograms of water hyacinth per load. When full, the harvester discharges the collected plants to a dumping site or an assisting barge.
The harvester mechanically removes water hyacinths using a specially-developed conveyor system. “Mechanically removing the plant is the better alternative because chemical methods are hazardous to plants and animals,” according to the research team. The harvester was launched Feb 15 near the banks of the Laguna Lake in C6 Road, Taguig City.
The Harvester, one of DOST’s technology solutions, is a collaboration between DOST-MIRDC and the Project Management Engineering and Design Service Office, with funding of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development.
According to DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, the Water Hyacinth Harvester prototype can still be modified and enhanced, depending on the need or the size and type of body of water where it will be used. “The DOST is very open to the adoption of the technology and also the improvement of the equipment,” he added.
Meanwhile, Corazon T. Jimenez, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Undersecretary and General Manager, also said that she expects the harvester to be permanently stationed in Pasig River to collect hyacinths that flow from the Marikina River.
“I thank the DOST and the MMDA for choosing the City of Taguig as their pilot site in the testing and demonstration of another innovative and breakthrough project,” Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano enthused. “This machine solves the problem of the tedious and time consuming manual harvesting water hyacinths that have clogged our waterways.”
Known locally as water lily, water hyacinth is infamous for clogging irrigations and water systems. As the plant multiplies rapidly, it depletes entire water reservoirs, damages fishing activities, and reduces biodiversity. It also holds vectors, or disease-carrying organisms, and hinders water transport.
Among the country’s hyacinth-infested waterways are the Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao, the Pasig River in Metro Manila, and Laguna de Bay.
On the other side of its otherwise notorious reputation, the water hyacinth can actually be a very good raw material for novel products that can churn in income for individuals and communities.
Among these products are handicrafts, pieces of furniture, and tablewares.
Meanwhile, the DOST continues to develop several technologies that specifically use water hyacinth. These are biogas, animal feeds, and geotextiles that prevent soil erosion.
Also, the Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI) recently held a fashion show that showcases fabrics from water hyacinth fibers.