Saturday, May 7, 2011

From the Telegraph today :- 07May2011

Grass test in landslide zone to protect soil
Vetiver plants distributed by the NGO in Kalimpong. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Kalimpong, May 6: A Kalimpong-based NGO has started a project on an experimental basis to promote the planting of a grass that can control soil erosion in landslide-prone areas.
The NGO, Save The Hills, has distributed 15 gunny sacks of vetiver or khas-khas grass at cost price to different groups for planting in the landslide-prone areas of Chibo-Pashyor and Sindebung on the fringes of Kalimpong.
The grass was also given to two other NGOs, which are working in remote areas of the subdivision, promoting agriculture and spreading awareness on the measures needed to arrest landslides.
“Vetiver is a tough grass native to south India. Even though vetiver is being used the world over to check soil erosion and for slope protection, this is the first time that we are trying out the grass in these mountains for erosion control and slope stability. This is very much an experiment since we found bamboo to be not too suitable for soil binding once the rainfall crossed a certain threshold,” said Praful Rao, the president of the STH.
Rao said if the experiment proved successful, the NGO may start vetiver plantation on a much larger scale, especially in the rural areas where farmers are losing land continuously because of erosion by jhoras.
“What is special about vetiver is that its dense fibrous roots go vertically into the soil over a four-five year period. Its roots are normally three-four metre long. Some call the grass ‘living soil nailing’ in reference to an engineering technique used to prevent landslides. The grass is also used as fodder and its stems as fuel,” he added.
Landslides are taking place with increasing frequency in the hills, killing people, destroying properties and eating up land. Although experts talk about a comprehensive landslide prevention plan, no initiative has been taken to put in place a mechanism to tackle the problem.
“Such a plan requires huge resources which would certainly require the government's involvement. Ours is a small attempt to help in landslide prevention,” said Rao.
Even though the STH was formed four years ago mainly to raise awareness on landslides, it has managed to set up an SMS-based early weather warning system and put in place automatic rainfall gauges in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to continuously monitor rainfall.
The STH president regretted that even though the National Disaster Management Authority talked about a paradigm shift in disaster management from a relief-centric regime to one which believes in prevention and preparedness, the opposite is practiced at district and subdivisional levels.
“The district disaster management plan is nothing more than a contingency plan which lays down action by different government agencies in the event of a disaster,” he said.

Praful Rao


Subash Chhetri said...

Application of Vetiver grass to control erosion and landslides in hills of Kalimpong by STH are the welcome move. If proper plantation and growth of grass takes place it may help to control the runoff velocity of the rainfall discharge to overcome rill and sheet erosion which are considered to be the primitive stage of the landslides. It may also control the infiltration and percolation of surface water. The grass seeding will become more effective if we seed on the surface of Stone Gully Plug (SGP), Gabion,Loose Boulder Structure(LBS) , Protection and check wall etc. on the Gullies,as gullies are the major reason for erosion and landslides. Care should be taken that the seeding should be on counter counter basis i.e. perpendicular to the direction of flow of runoff.
By Subash Chhetri
Agriculture Engineer,
Deepak Fertiliser & Petrochemicals

hem said...

This seems great initiatives in order to control soil erosion/land slide. However, measures should be thought over to aviode consequenses of superseding of indegenious plants by such alien species which might also result into monoculture of plants in forth coming days. As of now the above consequences might appear to be a landslide mitigation measures but might invite some kind of bio-diversity catostrope in future of which we unknown till date.

savethehills said...

Point taken and am extremely aware of this fact. Hence, our experiment on a such minuscule scale. Also, we are consulting others who are have used the grass for erosion control to check whether this grass is invasive or not.

jag said...

hope the planting of grass and other efforts of the STH shows result and the state government wakes up to prevent this man made disaster situation. the efforts need to be supported by center, state and gorkha land leadership for this noble and massive scale effort.

Dharitri said...

Vetiver System (VS) is a concept integrating simple scientific principals of hydrology, soil mechanics, and similar natural processes to manage soil and water on a landscape scale. The concept excels best when implemented using clones of a remarkable domesticated plant – vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), a non fertile, noninvasive Indian clump grass cultivated for centuries for essential oil. Vetiver is central to a wide range of applications, generally installed as narrow linear barriers (hedgerows): its roots hold soil in place and dense ground-level stems restrain sediment flows. Unlike “hard” engineering approaches that weaken over the time, VS grows stronger. It is a renewal of a traditional approach that has been validated scientifically.
The VS provides significant economic, environmental and social benefits. VS is now used in most tropical and semi-tropical countries, north to Italy and south to Chile. Based on research and demonstrations through research institutions, development agencies, NGO's and the private sector, VS has expanded from a technology primarily for farm soil and water conservation to include major applications for:
• Slope stabilization of public infrastructure (e.g., roads, railways, canals, rivers, construction);
• Prevention and treatment of contaminated domestic and industrial waste water;
• Reclamation of toxic mine-tailings and polluted industrial land;
• Disaster mitigation (e.g., stabilizing potential landslide sites, dikes and levees, dampening wind scour, and area protection against flooding);
• Soil improvement, wetland and marginal land restoration, and crop pest control;
• Renewable natural fibre for handicraft production, mulch, and thatch, etc.
• Bio-fuels
Vetiver is now accepted as an important tool and low cost technology for stabilization of steep slopes and batters. Therefore it can be used for Mine site rehabilitation, steep slopes associated with bunds, tailings, dams and other water management structures and revegetation of mine tailings.
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