The Sunderbans is not all about tigers and tidal creeks. In fact, there could be much more to the mangrove forest than has so far been discovered, suggests a research by the School of Oceanography, Jadavpur University.
A treasure trove of algae
After a two-year study, researchers from the school have chanced upon three varieties of algae which are rich in food value. One of them, Ulva Lactuca, was found as rich in protein as soya bean and a growth inducer, fit for human consumption. It could soon be marketed locally and in Southeast Asia by a Kolkata exporter.
The algae - Enteromorpha Intenstinalis, Ulva Lactuca and Catenella Repens - are already being cultivated in the Jharkhali region of Sunderbans. While Enteromorpha is about to be marketed as fish food, Ulva already has a demand in parts of south and east India, apart from Southeast Asia. It is consumed with vegetables. Catanella is not rich in vitamins but its anti-oxidant yield is higher. Researchers are yet to decide upon the form in which it could be used.
Enteromorpha, for instance, will be turned into powder, packaged and marketed as fish food. The exporters believe there could be a huge demand locally. Pisciculture is there in every village so there should be a big market. Farmers would have a ready supply if the algae are cultivated widely in Sunderbans.
Huge market potential
Training for farmers was organized this week at Jharkhali under the patronage of Nabard. While a batch of 40 was put through the training, hundreds would be trained in the next few months. Two hundred people are already engaged in the production of Enteromorpha. The Sunderban Development Board will also be extending support.