Ways with the water plant

Rural artisans from North East use the water hyacinth to develop eco-friendly products at NID workshop; display of wares at design institute in Paldi on December 21

 

Shraddha Singh

Posted On Saturday, December 04, 2010 at 03:18:54 AM

 

 

The International Centre for Indian Crafts (ICIC) at National Institute of Design (NID) is hosting a three-week design development workshop for 25 artisans from North-Eastern Region (NER). The workshop that started on Thursday aims at strengthening sustainable rural livelihood through promotion of eco-friendly products made from water hyacinth, an abundantly available aquatic plant, considered a waste and threat to aquatic life.

Chandrakant Das, programme coordinator and team leader, North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi), “Water hyacinth is relatively new material which has tremendous potential for developing various craft products. Abundance of the wild water plant, especially in the plain areas of North-Eastern region, is an opportunity to acquire the raw materials for free. The stem of this waste plant is dried and then hand-weaved to make different products. This workshop will give the artisans a new and fresh perspective in designing products made from water hyacinth.”

The workshop, supported by Guwahati-based NEDFi, is a platform for these rural artisans where NID designers will help them explore and hone their skills to come up with innovative designs in lifestyle products like bags, decorative pieces, cushion covers, basketry and even high-end furniture like bed and sofa-set. These lifestyle products will be sold under the brand name ‘Aqua Weaves’. NEDFi started promoting water hyacinth as an alternative for bamboo and cane as part of a project in August 2008. Talking about this emerging replacement for cane and bamboo crafts, Das said, “Depletion of cane in the forest areas has hampered the traditional cane and bamboo sector in the North East. Irregular supply of cane and high cost of procurement have adversely affected the craftsmen in their cane based activities.

“The raw material from water hyacinth has facilitated an alternative and viable option. This can be weaved as that of cane and hence its potential for use in basketry, bags, furniture and decorative items is enormous and economical. We have also developed a low-cost machinery for flattening of dry water hyacinth stems to improve productivity as manual flattening was not only tedious but time consuming.”

The artisans are also trained in combining dried water hyacinth with other conventional material like cane and jute to give the products a more refined look. These products targeted at high-end urban market can range anywhere between Rs 20 to Rs 20,000.

Said Bhavin Kothari, head, International Center for Indian Crafts, “These  artisans are already trained in making cane products. But our focus is on training them to explore the use of water hyacinth for making lifestyle products. Our designers are helping them to create innovative products which can be targeted for the high-end niche market.
The availability of such a cost-effective alternative will help the traditional artisan to be more competitive. Their skills can be integrated with modern and innovative designs to reap benefits of the modern market.” The final products made by these artisans during the workshop will be on display at the NID, Paldi campus on December 21.