Algae cultivation potential not fully tapped

[India] Potential of commercially-viable exotic algae cultivation in brackish and marine backwaters of Odisha coast has not been utilised yet.

Despite lack of proper promotion and vagaries of nature, women of Ganjam district in Odisha still want to cultivate algae in marine and brackish backwaters. However, they are not getting required technical and financial support.

According to Sudipta Kumar Das, a scientist with the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), backwaters on Odisha coast have intense potential for commercial cultivation of exotic algae, which has not been properly tapped yet.

In 2006-07 different women’s Self Help Groups in Ganjam district had started experimental cultivation of algae in coastal backwaters and backwaters of Chilika lagoon with technical support of Berhampur University. Success of algae cultivation on Tamil Nadu coast had made them interested in it.

At Samal village on the banks of Chilika lagoon of Khallikote block, Glacilaria, red algae was cultivated on experimental basis. Women of Purunabandha and Gokharkuda of Ganjam blocks of the district had started cultivation of red algae ‘Kappaphycus alverizii’.

Algae cultivation had also been started at coastal villages like Bandara, Laxmipur Sahi and Gourangpatana. The production at these centres was qualitative. But natural calamities proved to be a major stumbling block. Due to it, this experimental cultivation could not be made commercial.

Major flash flood in 2007 damaged most of these cultivation centres. “Despite it women groups tried hard to continue with their efforts which received a devastating blow because of the Phailin cyclone of October 2013,” said Saraswati Behera, an algae cultivator of Purunabandha.

According to Jamuna Behera, although at other places women have stopped cultivation again, women from 12 families of Purunabandha are still making efforts on their own in the backwaters near their village. But they are unable to get proper amount of parent algae to start cultivation again. “For it they have to depend on Tamil Nadu and these poor women cannot do it without proper support of fisheries or forest and environment department,” said social activist Mangaraj Panda.

Algae like ‘Kappaphycus alverizii’ and ‘Glacilaria’ have high commercial value which can provide additional income to improve the economic condition of families living in coastal regions of Odisha.

These algae have much demand in food, pharmaceutical and aquaculture related industries world over. Food grade colour pigment produced from it is used in jellies, ice cream, sauce, ham, sausage and cola drinks. They are also used by the cosmetic industry on a large scale. Algae can also be used as bio-fertiliser as it highly increases humus presence in any soil, thereby increasing its water bearing capacity.


Photo: Women checking algae at their experimental cultivation centre in Purunabandha in Ganjam district of Odisha.

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