Hands across the waters
CANAL CLEAN-UP : A growing network of canalside-dwellers team up with invisible workers to save Bangkok's waterways
Lemon mixed with molasses and water is used in producing Enzyme Ionic Plasma (EIP). POONA ANTASEEDA<|
Because no one else would, 50-year-old Somchai Papinyo and some concerned residents of Klong Jan's Community Flat 28 in Bang Kapi district took it into their own hands to try to improve the water quality of the Saen Saeb Canal and its arteries in Bangkok.
Almost every evening, the group unloads vegetable leftovers and fruit peels collected from the Bang Paki Fresh Market. These organic leftovers are the raw materials for enzyme ionic plasma (EIP), a product of the decomposition of the organic materials. Proponents of EIP claim it can suppress the foul stench of polluted water and even clear filthy canals. Micro-organisms in the EIP produce enzymes which help to decompose organic substances in polluted water via a chain reaction.
SOME VOCABULARY HELP
one of the tubes, streams or lines that flow into a larger one
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dirty and smelling bad
a strong, very unpleasant smell filthy
willing to listen to or to accept new ideas or suggestions
changed chemically because of the action of bacteria, often changing sugar to alcohol
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a first project that will be used to learn what works so other projects can follow
Somchai and his colleagues make EIP and distribute it to community residents, who use it in their kitchens and toilets.
“We produce EIP and distribute it to residents in Klong Jan Flat for dishwashing and for cleaning toilets so that the water these households release into the Pang Puay Canal is clean,” said Somchai.
Aside from distributing EIP, Somchai and his colleagues also demonstrate how to produce it. Among their receptive audiences are the residents of Lam Salee, Bang Kapi, the students and staff of the Thep Leela School in the Ramkhamhaeng area and vendors at the Bang Kapi Market.
At the demonstrations it is shown how the fruit peels and vegetable leftovers are fermented with molasses and water in specific proportions for at least 15 days, after which EIP is produced.
The EIP is skimmed off and bottled for community distribution. The remaining fermented mixture is combined with more leftover vegetables, molasses and water and the process is repeated.
EIP can be used as dishwashing liquid, as toilet cleaner, as plant fertiliser, and for cleaning polluted water.
“When the clear water from Pang Puay is released into the Saen Saeb Canal, the EIP in the water will continue to decompose the organic substances in the Saen Saeb Canal itself.
“This continuing action will clear the water of Saen Saeb and remove the stench there as well,” predicted Somchai.
Because the Saen Saeb is a major canal receiving wastewater from numerous arteries and city sewage pipes, most residents of the Klong Jan Community Flat think it will be impossible to clean up.
However, Somchai said, “Cleaning the wastewater in its smaller arteries can be done. Once the water in the Saen Saeb arteries is clean, the Saen Saeb will be clean too.”
Somchai continues to create networks among Bang Kapi residents and those who live along the many water arteries of the Saen Saeb Canal.
The ultimate goal is to help save Bangkok's inner-city waterways.
Thewa Wongsathit, a resident of Klong Jan Community Flat 30, said: “We must clean up the polluted water in the Pang Puay Canal.
“But to do this requires a larger community effort, because all wastewater along Nawamin Road is released into the canal,” he said. As the canal clean-up network expands, it touches more concerned citizens. The owner of the Bang Kapi Fresh Market has begun producing EIP and is using it to clean the market twice a week.
The market operator also helps in supplying vegetable leftovers and fruit peels to the community for EIP production.
Residents of the Klong Jan Community along the Lam Pang Puay Canal have organised the Lam Pang Puay Canal Conservation Club with the support of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), which is located nearby.
Asst Prof Taeng-On Manjaiton, former dean of the NIDA School of Social Development, pioneered the campaign to clean up the waterways of Bangkok.
Some small communities off the Saen Saeb Canal and its arteries have also joined in producing EIP for dissemination into the arteries. The communities of Wat Klang in Lat Phrao, Phet Klong Jan in Bung Kum, and Rom Klao Zone 7 in Lat Krabang have joined with NIDA in using EIP to clean out the canal.
Whether EIP can truly clean up the city's major canal or not, the effort has already had some major benefits. It has mobilised a large number of people and raised public awareness to new heights regarding the plight of Bangkok's canals. The project is providing canal-side communities with a focus, and the increased attention and awareness has also motivated the state sector to pledge to do more about the canals of Bangkok.
Proponents of EIP say the micro-organic concoction is astonishingly effective. On August 7, 13,000 litres of EIP and two tonnes of EIP in tablets form were released into the Saen Saeb at five points. Asst Prof Taeng-On says: “The foul stench in the Saen Saeb Canal disappeared within an hour.
“The next morning, the water was clean. But because more wastewater flowed in, Saen Saeb became black again.
“To keep the water of Saen Saeb permanently clean, it is necessary to have networks with communities living along the canal and its arteries to help in the clean-up,” said Asst Prof Taeng-On , who is now chief adviser to the Pang Puay Canal Conservation Club.
Asst Prof Taeng-On said she aims to make Bang Kapi District a pilot project area for canal clean-up. She plans to launch similar campaigns in 15 other districts along the Saen Saeb Canal.
NIDA, along with the cooperating communities and non-governmental organisations, will release EIP into Saen Saeb in large quantities on September 20 to mark Canal Conservation Day, and again on December 5 to mark the birthday of His Majesty the King.
To strengthen the efforts of the EIP networks, Asst Prof Taeng-On also seeks cooperation from monks to preach about keeping canal waterways clean, and she is asking temples with a lot of leftovers to produce EIP to distribute to people along the waterways.
Asst Prof Taeng-On often stresses how useful EIP is in cleaning wastewater. “I want people to see the importance of EIP. It can be used as a toilet cleaner and dumped into the toilet so that the septic tank is not full. EIP can also be used as dishwashing liquid and as detergent. Using EIP is good for the environment because the micro-organisms in the EIP continue to decompose organic substances in canals.”
She also pleads with companies that manufacture detergents and dishwashing fluids to produce products that are friendly to the environment.
“The Saen Saeb Canal has a very great potential, not only economically but also socially — if we can rehabilitate it.”