Students Of Bhubaneswar-Based School Develop Particleboards From ‘Unwanted’ Chilika Weeds

Bhubaneswar: Can an invasive weed be used for making particle boards? Well, that’s what two Class IX students of Odisha-based KiiT International School—Rishabh Suar and Shree Roy— have done. They have created particleboards from the stem of a weed known as Phragmites Karka, which is found in abundance in Chilika Lake.

Phragmites Karka is an invasive species, which poses a threat to the ecosystem of the brackish water lake. “It is not a very useful plant. It takes away the nutrition of other plants. During the 1999 super cyclone, this species invaded and started growing in the ghats of Chilika Lake. It is growing very rapidly and converts wetlands of Chilika into drylands,” said Rishabh, who is one among the 26 students from Odisha whose project has been selected for the 29th National Science Congress.

The duo will showcase their project on ‘Phragmites Karka’ at the National Science Congress. Through their project, the duo aspires to solve the livelihood and ecological problems faced by inhabitants of Chilika due to the weed.

“Many researchers are trying to find out ways to eradicate the plant or to utilise it in some other way. Chilika Development Authority is also working on how to control the growth of Phragmites Karka or utilize it so the wetlands remain intact,” said Shree, who along with her classmate Rishabh conceived the project idea during their visit to Chilika. They had interacted with the locals there to understand their livelihood issues.

“We understood that during the pandemic the livelihood of the people has been badly affected. Then, after a discussion with a scientist at CIPET and some of the researchers at KIIT School of Biotechnology, we decided to take up the project,” said Rishabh.

The duo powdered the weed’s stem portion to make the particleboard.

The project, as they put it, also solves environmental problems. “To make particleboards, every year valuable forest resources are exploited. But, if the weeds at ghats of Chilika are used for making the board, a manufacturing unit can come up there. This will generate employment,” said Shree.

After making the prototype of the particleboard, the students are now working to develop a biochar filter from the roots of the weed. The filter can be used for segregating chemicals and dyes from the water.

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