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Mamata Announced Vetiver Plantation Project To Protect River Embankments

2015-11-23 23:50

A eroded bank of river Bhagirathi in Santipur. Picture by ABHI GHOSH


Krishnanagar, Nov. 23: Embarrassed over rampant erosion of river embankments across the state that has rendered a few lakhs people homeless, the state government in a bid to curb the threat has decided to plant ‘Vetiver’ grass, a perennial Indian bunchgrass alongside of river embankments that is widely used by over 100 countries.

A Vetiver plantThe project has been launched in Nadia on Monday by chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Under this Rupees 33-crore first plantation of Vetivar would be started soon for a combined stretch of 744-km erosion prone embankments of rivers those pass through Nadia district.

Nadia is one of the most erosion suffered districts in the state.

The chief minister named the project as “Sabujayan”.

The Vetiver grass (Vetiveria Zizanioides), commonly known as “Khus Ghass” has finely structured mat-like root system that grows about 2-4 meter downward is a tested plant that works as soil binder and thus controls and prevent erosion of soil on river embankment.

Renowned agronomist Professor Ratikata Ghosh said: “It is a great initiative that the government should have taken much earlier. At present more than 100 countries across the globe have been using Vetivar to prevent soil erosion. The unfortunate part is that despite its origin in India with a Tamil name, the plant is not quite popular in India despite fascination by others”.

The state government has contacted P.Vincent, known as ‘pioneer of Vetiver plantation’ in India, who is also executive director of Tamilnadu based International Vetiver Organization, for technical and educational support for plantation.

In the first phase of plantation which would begin from Monday, the state government has bought 10-lakh sapling from Tamilnadu based growers. The plantation proramme will be done under MGNREGA’s 100-days’ job scheme in the district.

Nadia district magistrate Vijay Bharti said: “As the district has been suffering badly owing to massive erosion that also led to flood situation during monsoon, we have proposed for Vetiver plantation as preventive in a holistic and economic way. Vetiver grass is widely used in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Assam to control erosion as its mat-like roots grows strong and forms wide clumps going deep downward into the soil preventing it from collapse being hit by the river wave”.

Nadia District panchayat and rural development officer Babulal Mahato, said: “Vetiver plant is one of the best soil binders and is used to check soil erosion by planting along contour. It is used extensively in Assam to control and prevent erosion of the banks of Brhahmaputra’s tributaries”.

Nadia is a rural backward erosion prone district where six major rivers (Bhagirathi, Mathabhanga, Padma, Jalangi, Padma, Ichchamati and Churni) passed through 94 panchayat bodies spanned over 16-blocks covering about 553 km stretch of rivers.

“Considering erosion prone both side of the rivers the gross length of the plantation will be done for a stretch of 744-km in Nadia”, said Mahato.

“A major part of this stretch is damaged due to erosion. A large number of people in the district were displaced as jaws of erosion embraced their land and properties. Nabadweep, Krishnanagar-I, Santipur, Ranaghat-I, Chakdaha are the works affected blocks in the district. The embankment protection works carried earlier in these areas like bouldering or sandbag filling have proved to be not viable enough to stop erosion. Moreover, these methods are costly enough. So we were looking for an alternative”, DPRDO Mahato added.

A senior professor of agronomy department of Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswabidyalay said: “November-February is the ideal time for Vetiver plantation. It takes three months to become a Vetivar matured enough to become soil binder. By nine months become strongest binder with a root length of about 4 meter. A Vetiver plant could survive about 35 years”.

DM Vijay Bharti said: “We have targeted to complete plantation in 744 – km stretch by end of February so that flood situation could be avoided by saving the river embankments.”

DPRDO Mahato said: “Before plantation we will cover the embankment by galvanized iron net so that plants are not washed away. We will also do earthwork to maintain the alignment before plantation. After the plantation, the Self help group will looks after the plants, who will be encouraged to make handcrafted items using the stems and leaves”.

Meanwhile, the Nadia administration has decided to grow saplings of Vetiver on its own.

“The present market rate of a Vetiver sapling is around Rupees 2.50 including the transportation charge. We will reduce this expenditure by raising the plants here through multiplication system”, Mahato said.

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