Utilization of aquatic plants: a method to enhance the productivity of water in seasonal tanks in the Anuradhapura District
Heavy infestations of aquatic plants in a water body cause considerable economic and ecological losses. Many seasonal tanks in the Anuradhapura District suffer from this problem and cannot be neglected in water resource development and management schemes. This study was focused on the uses of aquatic plants and the problems caused by huge manifestations of aquatic plants in the selected seasonal tanks in the Anuradhapura District. The study was conducted in four seasonal tanks viz., Galkulama, Thirappane Maradankadawala and Thibbatuwewa in the Anuradhapura District. Information on the utilization of aquatic plants, exploitation level and harmful effects were gathered by using a structured questionnaire to interview people who were residing close to the study sites. The attitudes of the public towards the aquatic plants i.e., conservation of aquatic plants, the potential uses of native plants and harmful effects of invasive aquatic plants were collected. Twelve species were identified as economically important aquatic plants through the questionnaire survey. Among the 50 respondents, 92 % utilized aquatic plants for food, 58 % utilized flowers for offerings and decorations, 52 % utilized aquatic plants for medicinal purposes, 42 % utilized them as ornamental plants, 30 % used them as bio-fertilizers and 28 % utilized them for weaving. The edible aquatic plants consumed by the rural community in the Anuradhapura District are Ipomoea aquatica (72 %), Alternanthera sessilis (66 %), Nelumbo nucifera (64 %), Nymphaea pubescens (60 %) and Aponogeton spp. (52 %). Some edible aquatic plants, namely Neptunia oleracea, Ottelia alismoides and Ceratopteris thalictriodes, which are present in the Anuradhapura District, are not consumed, although these are consumed in many other countries. N. nucifera is the most commonly used flower for offerings in the temples and for decorations. In addition, N. pubescens, Nymphaea nouchali are also used for flowers. Bacopa monnieri, N. nucifera, Acanthus illicifolia, N. nouchali and Aponogeton spp. have been recorded as medicinally important plants. Though there are many ornamentally important aquatic plants, only N. pubescens, N. nouchali, B. monnieri, Nymphoides hydrophylla are used. Salvinia molesta and Eichhornia crassipes are the two aquatic plants commonly used as bio fertilizers. With reference to the questionnaire survey, there were seven major problems that were discovered to exist due to heavy infestations of aquatic weeds in the water bodies viz., sedimentation and unsuitability for domestic use, interference with navigation, effects on fisheries, blocking irrigation canals and evapotranspiration. The most problematic plants in the Anuradhapura District include E. crassipes, N. nucifera, S. molesta, Pistia stratiotes and Ceratophyllum demersum. Economically important aquatic plants available in the shallow water bodies of the Anuradhapura District, are marginally utilized, when compared with the utilization of aquatic plants in the global scenario. There appears to be a lack of a well organized action plan to cope with this situation. The public suffer a lot from the problems created by the heavy mass of aquatic plants, which covered the village tanks. The public are, however, willing to get organized and to engage in a participatory approach to restore their water bodies. There is a need for research and development of management strategies for the sustainable utilization of these valuable resources. Awareness programs should be conducted to promote sustainable utilization of aquatic plants. Creating awareness among the people about the nutritional and economic benefits of these natural resources will be useful for Sri Lanka, as a developing nation.Length: pp.23-32
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