A Philippines start-up company is converting a pesky invasive water lily blamed for causing flooding, into fuel, hoping to turn a pest into an eco-friendly alternative to regular charcoal. Stuart McDill reports.
Lakes and waterways across the Philippines are covered in water lilies. The plant is blamed for devastating flooding - by blocking rivers, causing them to burst their banks. But harvest the hazard and dry it out - and you have an eco-friendly fuel source. That's what HiGi Energy are doing - turning water hyacinth into charcoal. SOUNDBITE (English) HIGI ENERGY CHIEF FINANCE OFFICER, HAZEL PAJOTAGANA "Our main goal is to really provide the people with cleaner energy and at the same time by lessening the problem of the pest plant water hyacinth because here in the Philippines there are a lot of, say, ponds and rivers infested with water hyacinth." The company's briquettes cost significantly more than traditional charcoal - but they produce half the smoke and burn for longer they say. They hope to sell their briquettes to businesses - and reduce reliance on regular charcoal which relies on logging trees. SOUNDBITE (English) HIGI ENERGY CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, LEON KEE "As long as there is a demand, it provides an incentive for people to keep on cutting down trees to make a new charcoal. So how we intercept is that we use something that is previously perceived as a pest, a waste, which is the water lily and make it of value, of a certain value to the Filipino which is the charcoal product." Others turning a pest into pesos are a disabled self-help group - proud of their eco-credentials. SOUNDBITE (English) MARIO GALVEZ, PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITY "Personally, I believe that whatever status you have in life, whether you have a disability or not, rich or poor, you have to take care of our Mother Earth." It's estimated half of the country's 100 million people cook using charcoal. Enough to make a major difference if they can just be persuaded to go green.