03 / 1994
One of the chief criticisms of donor and NGO aid to rural development enterprises is that it ruins and depletes the natural resources. Or else the chemicals and substances used in an enterprise are detrimental to the environment. This is not peculiar to Sri Lanka but is a worldwide problem. The frequent global conferenece on the subject are eloquent proof of this concern.
Sri Lanka too has had than its share of environmental pollution and destruction through the many new industries that have arisen over the years. The affluents from these places have been dumped in bodies of water like lakes and canals or even directed to the rivers and the sea.
So it is extremely rewarding that some of the new enterprises that IRED through its development interventions has started, not only creates new income generating enterprises, but are also those which atr the same time address pollution problems.
Water hyacinths which grow wild in village waters and lagoons could serve a variety of purposes. For one thing it serves the purpose of absorbing industrial pollutants from nearby factories and industries which would otherwise clog and poison these waterways. Lead poison is another common danger. This plant absorbs these affluents and nullifies their effect. In addition water hyacinths can be processed so that the stem is used to make extremely attractive furniture which is light and strong, like cane. One of the grassroots leaders was trained by Thai specialists in learning this skill. If pursued it could become a very valuable foreign exchange earner and provide employment to a sizable group of villagers. This is easily transferable technology and can be used with far reaching advantages. Its particular advantage is that water hycinths grow in all parts of the island, so that craft can also be extended islandwide.
A similar craft, but also a high value product to be made from water hycinths is handmade note-paper. Here again it has great appeal and if followed up, can bring money and bring Sri Lankan craftsmanship to the attention of the discrimnating customer.
Another wild plant that grows rapidly and blocks our waterways is salvinia. Here a technology could be used to make salvinia into colourful umbrellas like those sold in Malaysia. If done, it would stop environmental degradation through water pollution and bring economic benefits by using waste material and help Sri Lanka’s prestige internationally.
These are income generating activities requiring only small investments. Skilled training and marketing jnowhow could turn these new trades into rewarding results for our small scale entrepreneurs, providing employment and other related benefits.
It only need the ability to systematise the responsibilities, and make the best use of even our waste products and help preserve the environment thus fulfilling two objectives at once.
IRED GENERAL SECRETARIAT COLOMBO OFFICE
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368