Geo-textile method used to restore Himalayan meadows in Uttarakhand

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Uttarkashi/Dehradun: Uttarakhand’s forest department is using the geo-textile method to restore its famous but degraded alpine meadows, the first time the technique has been utilised in the Himalayan region.

Around 9,000 square metres of coir geo-textile have been used with bamboo pegs and check dams to protect meadows and to prevent soil erosion, officials said.

A geo-textile is any permeable textile used to increase soil stability, provide erosion control, aid in drainage, and reinforce or protect the terrain. They usually come in three forms – woven, needle-punched and heat bonded.

The coir geo-textile is being used to prevent soil erosion and damage to Dayara Bugyal (meadow) in Uttarkashi district, located at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet.

Uttarkashi’s divisional forest officer Sandeep Kumar said the coir geo-textile was used to make walls on the meadows, which are completely filled with pine needles to make them strong. Along with this, check dams were made in rivers using pine needles and bamboos to prevent soil erosion.

“Given that the meadows are ecologically sensitive, we couldn’t use concrete or cement to restore them. So, we used this technology whereby eco-friendly things are used to save meadows. In the coming two years, this method will act as a lifesaver to prevent soil erosion in the meadows,” he said.

Soil erosion occurs in the meadows due to anthropogenic pressures, such as uncontrolled grazing. “First sheet” erosion happens, which turns into “rill erosion” due to heavy rainfall, leading to “gully erosion”, a widespread form of erosion caused by flow surface water and leading to the formation of channels in meadows.

Jai Raj, the principal chief conservator of forests and head of the forest force in Uttarakhand, said this innovative method will be replicated at other meadows in the state.

“For the first time, such an initiative has been taken by the forest department of Uttarakhand to restore our alpine meadows. The main problem that we are facing is that soil erosion over the years, due to various reasons, has increased in those areas and this is affecting many indigenous native species,” Raj said.

“We have made a programme to revive meadows as the problem is quite widespread. We will be focusing on eight to nine main alpine meadows to restore them first.”

Jai Raj said a Rs13 crore-plan has been framed by the forest department, of which around Rs6 crore has been set aside for the next financial year, while two more sums of Rs4 crore and then Rs3 crore will be sought later.

“Dayara Bugyal was our priority, so we started work on this first. We had been studying this method for the past year. If everything goes well, without any natural disturbances such as heavy rainfall, landslides or snowfall, then the meadow should regain its glory in two years,” added Jai Raj.

Coir is the fibre obtained from the husk of coconuts and it is chiefly used to make ropes and matting.

Sushil Bhatt, the Dehradun-based assistant manager of Coir Board of India, from which the geo-textile was sourced, said coir textile prevents soil erosion and dissolves over time in the meadows, acting as manure for vegetation.

“Around 9,000 square metres of coir geo-textile was supplied for this project. Coir geo-textile can be used for preventing soil erosion and road construction. In such projects, first, the geo-textile is laid, then plantation work is carried out, which helps in holding the soil along with the textile,” he said.

“When the plants germinate, the geo-textile turns into mulch in almost a year’s time, and in another year, the geo-textile completely dissolves in the soil and acts as a manure for the same vegetation and also helps in further growth to prevent soil erosion,” said Bhatt.

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