The Meghalaya government is planning to use an AI-powered robotic boat to clean the scenic Umiam lake that is being ravaged by plastic waste, an official said on Sunday.
Umkhrah and Umshyrpi rivers, which flow through state capital Shillong, carry tonnes of plastics every day and dump them into the southern part of the lake, which is only accessible by boats, he said.
"We are impressed by the demonstration given by ClearBot. They have demonstrated that they can clean the waste in the most economical way," Health Secretary Ram Kumar, who is the nodal officer for the Smart Village Movement, told PTI.
He said ClearBot, a Hongkong-based company, gave a demonstration over one week, and the self-driving boat is collecting 200 kg of waste in one session.
It is one of the companies shortlisted by non-profit Smart Village Movement, which works on different projects in collaboration with the state government, called in for the demonstration.
ClearBot co-founder Siddhant said the Umiam lake is one of the dirtiest water bodies that he has been to.
"It will be a privilege to see our boats clean this mess in a few months' time, given a chance," he said.
"The boat that we brought here is a small one, which can pull out 200-400 kg of waste in a day. If the bigger boat is put into work, all the waste will be cleared in a few months," he said.
Local fishermen of the nearby Mawdun village lauded the efforts to clean up the lake.
One of them, W Lyngdoh, said he and his fellow fishermen had lost all hope.
"The waste has made fishing more difficult. I have seen that the machine can really do the job," he said.
If commissioned with the job, the cost of cleaning by ClearBot is about the same as an earthmover, Siddhant said.
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma is monitoring the overall implementation of the project, he said.
At present, some of ClearBot's boats are engaged in cleaning waste in Varanasi and Bengaluru.
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