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Goddess garland to sari dye
- Hibiscus, marigold from temples to colour clothes by Pujas 2004

Jaba (hibiscus), gyanda (marigold) and aparajita garlands, after they are taken off the goddesses at Kalighat, Dakshineswar and Dhakai Kalibari, on Prince Anwar Shah Road, will be turned into bio-friendly floral dyes, used for printing saris.

The West Bengal food processing and horticulture corporation plans to set the trend for Pujas 2004 with these bio-friendly herbal colours.

A recent breakthrough by the chemical engineering department of Jadavpur University (JU) has brightened the prospect of marketing floral dyes.

“Three primary fast colours — red, yellow and blue — have been extracted successfully from the hibiscus, marigold and aparajita flowers by a team of researchers under professor Siddhartha Datta. The dyes have been tried out on cloth on an experimental basis,” announced department of science and technology secretary Moloy Banerjee.

The trial run was conducted at Ananda Niketan, at Bagnan, in Howrah. “The knowhow will be transferred to entrepreneurs in small and cottage industrial units in two or three months,” he added. According to Banerjee, three specific projects are now on, involving three universities, with a fund of Rs 22 lakh provided by member of Parliament Hannan Mollah, from his local area development fund.

While JU is working on developing the floral dyes, Shibpur Bengal Engineering College has been entrusted with the development of technology for greenhouse cultivation of roses and orchids. Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya is working on a project to set up a gene bank of precious flora.

“Apart from the universities, we have also involved the state food processing and horticulture corporation, the Mullickghat flower market coordination committee and private firm Industrial Repose in the project for an assured supply of raw material and for marketing the products,” explained Banerjee.

Mullickghat committee president Sudhansu Sil said quintals of marigold and hibiscus were dumped into drains daily at the Howrah flower market since they had no demand in the international market.

The average price of marigold and hibiscus in the local wholesale market varies between Rs 12 and Rs 30 a kg. “We are capable of supplying 1,500 quintals of marigold daily for five months in a year,” Sil said.

In terms of flower production, West Bengal stands third in India, after Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Bengal produces 6,500 tonnes of flowers every year. And marigold constitutes 48 per cent of the total production.

According to state horticulture corporation deputy manager Subrata Bose, about 50 per cent of over 2,518 metric tonnes of marigold and 1,100 metric tonnes of hibiscus that come into the market are wasted, and in terms of money, the loss would amount to about Rs 2 crore.

Besides being used for dyes, the marigold has two other commercial uses — as poultry feed and for treatment of plant infections. A marigold extract is a very effective check against ‘nimatode’ infection in tuberoses.

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