The Legacy of Pani-Meteka

Sunday, 24 January 2021


The Legacy of Pani-Meteka

Prapti Das | January 14, 2021 10:39 hrs

Be it in the small-patched lakes amidst the paddy-fields or the domestic ponds of the rural communities of Assam, the extensive carpeting of the pani-meteka (Water Hyacinth) is a spectacle that never fails to captivate. This marine plant, with astonishing traits, abundantly contributes to the sustainable and economical development of the region.  

If we trace back to the most highlighted bulletins from a couple of years ago, we’d see how this aquatic plant used to occupy the headlines on most days because it reportedly choked water bodies and tourist spots posing a grave threat for the ecology and the economy. Tagged as an invasive species, administrations of various tourist towns looked extensive measures to clear out these plants from their ecological roots as their existence harmed the tourism revenue and the growth of biodiversity. It was at that point when the global society realized the developmental boon in disguise of a seemingly useless water weed. 

The international origins of this plant, along with certain regions of our own country have ever since been on the hunt for more and more creative ways to utilize this stock resource. The abundant hub of biodiversity that our Northeastern India is posed this opportunity since times immemorial and this land of the Seven Sisters can be seen way ahead in this arena of creative utilization and indigenous, eco-friendly production. 

The amount of potential that the water-hyacinth plant holds in the arena of handicraft was first discovered under the Northeastern Development Finance Corporation which was a project aiming to help the indigenous artisans and the rural people in acknowledging the kind of resource that the otherwise unused product originally is and in mastering the concepts which molds this eco-friendly produce to a global attraction. 

The aboriginal artisans of our land take immense pride in showcasing the top-notch designs that they carve out of pani-meteka or the water-hyacinth. The sets of bags, baskets, laundry bins, head-caps, jewelry, etc. are designed by tapping the meteka from its origin, sun-drying the stalks and intricately weaving them together. The variegated hues of the products that are witnessed in the vast market of meteka produce are dyed manually by the artisans but the original sleek, blonde colour of the products are what attracts the most concentration. 

This eco-friendly produce is also regarded for its durability; it’s incomparable agricultural-manure nutrients and these very attributes of this ecological treasure has helped in situating the country’s second National Institute of Design (NID) in the city of Jorhat aiming to discover and redefine more such magnificent produce, ultimately posing a grand opportunity for the regional development. This specific produce is also responsible in ringing immense opportunities for indigenous households who are now coming together for organized production.

It is known that with rising demand follows the increasing probability of the ill-handling of a resource. This treasure stock that pani-metaka is has been brought into the forefront more specifically for the development and empowerment of beneficiaries and the ratio of the introduction and execution of measures for the surface cleaning, safe-tapping, drying, flatting and storing of these products, is seen to be lower than what it should be. It is essential to decode the boundaries of the communities and the sub-ecosystems if we want to turn this resource into valuable local produces with proper management and delicate functioning.

Nevertheless, this potential fiber has very well absorbed the interests of countless multi-national units who have started marketing it as ‘aqua weaves’. In brief, the pani-meteka is more than just blossoming produce and can indisputably be tagged as the righteous portrayal of the affluent handicraft, heritage and the ecology of not only Assam, but the entire Northeastern India.

(The author is a class 10 student hailing from Guwahati. The views expressed in the article are her own.)

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