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Coir to be used in bio-engineering technology 

Kozhikode : The coir board is taking a giant leap forward by implementing soil bio-engineering technology for controlling soil erosion and watershed management, board chairman, Ms Christy Fernandes said.

It had developed the `coir bhoovasthra' (coir geo-textiles) which would protect it against soil erosion including sea and wind erosion, without affecting the environment and ecology, he said.

At the annual conference of chief engineers of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at New Delhi on November 16 last, he had proposed to undertake collaborative field application and R and D work on the use of coir bhoovasthra.

With BRO director general Lt Gen AK Puri agreeing to this, the board has nearly a dozen projects, to be implemented soon.

The BRO chief engineers from the north-east had agreed to apply geo-textiles on Hunli-Anini road in Arunachal Pradesh, Dimapur-Kohima road in Nagaland, Aizwal road in Assam and Mizoram. This was in addition to the ongoing projects at Nirjuli. Proposals were there to take up works on Kulu-Manali road in Himachal Pradesh, slide points in Leh-Ladakh region and Bikaner-Jaisalmer roads in Rajasthan under a project named Chetak.

The board has successfully applied coir geotex in checking sea erosion at Chellanam near Kochi and embankment erosion at several other places, Mr Fernandes said.

The proposed express highway from Silchar to Kaniyakumari would also have `bhoovasthra' applications. It had been negotiating with the Cochin university to include soil bio-engineering technology in its syllabus and would press other varsities to follow suit by stressing the importance of coir geo-textile compared to synthetic items, he said.

Work to control wind erosion in the Thar desert would soon commence at Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. The board would soon undertake an application research project jointly with the Gujarat government or its agencies. Another project on hand was collaborative application research projects with the Rajasthan government.

The global demand for geo-textiles by the turn of the century would be 1,400 sqm. Now the major share of geo-textile market was dominated by geo-synthetics which was readily available. The share of geo-textiles made of natural fibres like coir, jute and sisal was less than five per cent now. The products of the coir board like meshes and nettings, needledfelts and pads, erosion control blankets and mulch blankets, geo-rolls, vegetation fascines, geo-cushions and geo-beds, braided ropes and anti-weed blankets could be effectively used to enable speedy growth of vegetation. Being bio-degradable and eco-friendly, coir geotex was an excellent substitute for geo-synthetics.

Countries in Europe and south east Asia besides USA and Australia were using coir geo-textiles, he said. Earnings from its exports was Rs 8.09 crore last year. The board was trying to attain its own lab facility so that it could easily convince others about coir geo-textiles, than taking the prospective customer to the site where it had been applied.

The projects on field trial and demonstrative studies included: Mettupalayam-Coonoor road slopes in Nilgiris, Kabini canal slopes in Karnataka, railway cuttings in Kudal sector of Konkan railway, Nirjuli hill slopes in Arunachal Pradesh, Gangtok hill slopes in Sikkim, soil conservation and erosion control studies on Dehradun hill slopes and approach road embankments at the Nedumbasserry international airport.Earlier, the chairman signed an MoU with the Indian Institute of Management (Kozhikode) for application of coir geo-textiles for protection of road/reservoir embankments.

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