FIRST NATIONAL VETIVER WORKSHOP FOR INDIA
This workshop held in Kochi (Cochin) from February 21-23 2008 was ably managed by the Indian Vetiver Network with support from Tata Tea Co Ltd, KDHP Co Ltd, and The Vetiver Network International.
Some 300 participants showed up for the inaugural session and there were about the same number at the workshop’s closing, a good indication of participant interest.
- Introduction and Revew
- Environmental Protection
- Natural Disaster Management
- Agriculture and Other Applications
- Socio-Economic Impact
- Other Uses of Vetiver
Introduction and Review
- Introducing the Vetiver System, Vetiver Networking, Agricultural Applications, and Future Uses for Energy/Fuel and Carbon Sequestration. Dick Grimshaw
- China Vetiver Network: Twenty Years Experience in Vetiver Development. Liyu Xu
- The Thailand Vetiver Network. Narong Chomchalow
- Vetiver in India: Historical Perspective and Prospective for Development of Specific Genotypes for Environmental or Industrial Application. Umesh Lavania
- Vetiver System for Prevention and Treatment of Polluted Water and Contaminated Land. Paul Truong
- Research and Development of Vetiver Grass for Treatment of Polluted Water and Contaminated Land. Paul Truong
- Application of Vetiver for Water and Soil Restoration. P.Lakshmanaperumalsamy, S.Jayashree, and J.Rathinamala
- Vetiver System for Industrial Wastewater Treatment and Disposal at Gelita APA, Queensland, Australia. Cameron Smeal
- Vetiver System for Natural Disaster Mitigation in Vietnam. Tran Tan Van, Paul Truong, and Elise Pinners
- R&D Results on Unique Contributes of Vetiver Applicable for its Use in Disaster Mitigation Purposes in Vietnam. Tran Tan Van and Paul Truong
- Vetiver System for Soil and Water Conservation in Tea Plantations. Including Selection of Appropriate Planting Material and Other Applications. P.Haridas and S.Balasubramanian.
- Phytoremediation of Induced Lead Toxicity in Vigna Mungo(L) by Vetiver Grass. Deepak Kumar Gupta, Alok Srivastava, and V. P. Singh
- Vetiver - An Eco-Friendly Grass for the Middle East. Mr. Sanjeev S Kurup, Sausan Muhammed Al Salem, Shyma Ali Al Khabbas &Tahani Al Otaibi
- Physico-Chemical Studies on Allelopathic Interaction of Vetiver With Two Non-Edible Oil Yielding Fence Plants. Y. Vimala, Anuj K. Ahalavat and Maneesh K. Gupta
- Propagation and Management of Vetiver Nursery. Paul Truong
- Vetiver Systems for Community Development and Poverty Alleviation In Indonesia. David Booth, Ardika Adinata and Rosmara Dewi
- Vetiver System For Soil And Water Conservation on the Yadana Gas Pipeline And Community Outreach Program At Huay Kayeng, Thailand. Songkiert Tansamrit
- Other Uses and Utilization of Vetiver. Narong Chomchalow,
- Environmental, economics and equity aspects of vetiver in South India. Prakasa Rao, C.T. Gopinath and S.P.S.Khanuja
- Problems, Proposed Solutions and the Difficulties in Adopting Those Solutions in Pollution Control in Chandigarh. M.P Singh and Geetika Kalha
There were some excellent papers covering a broad range of Vetiver System applications and topics. The workshop brought together farmers, engineers, NGO’s, private sector and government agencies from all over India, as well as some who came from outside India. Although there was still a little skepticism from a few, the overwhelming majority endorsed the Vetiver System and are anxious to see its application widely spread and used. This workshop was the first time in India that all the Vetiver Systems applications were presented as an interlinked group covering many sectors.
The following are some aspects that I would like to highlight:
- India is facing, at urban and village level, very serious water quality problems due to uncontrolled and untreated domestic and industrial wastewater. Workshop participants were greatly interested in papers by Paul Truong (Australia), M.P. Singh (India), Cameron Smeald (Australia) and Prof. P. Lakshmanaperumalsamy (Department of Environmental Sciences, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore) that focused on these problems. As a result of the Cochin workshop and the one before in Chandigarh decisions have been made to go ahead with waste water treatment applications in Punjab and Haryana States. There is overwhelming data and experience that VS can handle domestic wastewater and sewage effluent at small and medium scale. VS can deal with industrial waste water where large areas of land are available. For example clean up to EPA standards of 1.5 million liters per day of effluent from a gelatin factory in Australia required 80 hectares of land. This might be possible in India only if waste land was utilized.
- An interesting point in M.P. Singhs’s paper on vetiver and climate change is that vetiver removes the large mass of methane and nitrous oxide that is generated by waste water, both far more significantly serious greenhouse gasses than Carbon Dioxide.
- In Kerala waste water treatment and cleaning up temple and village tanks are important issues. There are many bodies of water (in nearly every village in India) that have religious significance and are currently unfit for human use.
- It was agreed that while recognizing the higher quality of vetiver oil from north Indian/Gangetic/Indus Basins vetiver cultivars, because of its invasiveness only non-fertile vetiver cultivars from south India should be used when applying the Vetiver System. These cultivars are generally domesticated and are the ones used by vetiver oil producers of south India, These vetiver cultivars also produce higher root and leaf biomass. They are related to the cultivars used for the Vetiver System in other tropical having well known names such as Monto, Sunshine, China, Karnataka, Fiji and Natal.
- The workshop was able to bring vetiver oil growers together with potential VS users, and an informal market emerged whereby the oil producers will sell plant material. (there are at least 3000 acres of vetiver grown for oil in India). If fully involved they could produce annually a total of 15 – 30 billion slips at a cost of just cutting off the roots and the leaves from the vetiver crown and bundling the slips together! Erosion is not a serious problem in oil producing areas (see photo) except on steep lands, where it can easily be controlled by improved management practices by planting vetiver for oil between vetiver hedgerows. There is a myth circulating in India that where vetiver is grown as a hedgerow it will be dug up for its oil content. In all my travels in the tropics, including India, I have never seen this happen, and on questioning... neither have those in India who spread the myth (in most cases, except on very light sandy soils, the cost of digging vetiver grown on agricultural and non agricultural land is more than the oil is worth).
A 35 hectare vetiver oil farm in Tamilnadu. Well managed, no erosion, and producing non fertile domesticated vetiver cultivars that could be used as plant material for vetiver applications.
- Coastal beach and river erosion are problems that can be reduced using VS and have been aptly demonstrated in Chennai (Madras) and of course on many rivers in East Asian countries. Authorities in Kerala see these as important areas of applications.
- India is planning massive highway and railway infrastructure developments. Under these investments contractors will be responsible for design, construction and maintenance for 20 years. Thus there is every incentive to use technologies that will improve quality and reduce maintenance costs. Vetiver Systems is well placed to do just this when it comes to slope (mainly fill) stabilization. Engineers from a large highway firm working out of Delhi attended the workshop and showed great interest in the use of VS for this purpose. India Vetiver Network should work with construction companies to develop appropriate workshops that target the engineers.
- The Vetiver System could be used most effectively to help rehabilitate waterlogged and saline areas as found in central Hayana. Under such conditions vetiver could be grown as a high yielding forage (70 tons/ha) that could form a basis for an expanding dairy industry. The same might apply to Punjab and parts of UP where salinity is a problem.
- The workshop participants showed great interest in making vetiver handicrafts from vetiver leaves as done in Thailand. Last year the Thais trained two Indian textile design experts. Arrangements should be made to use these women to train others. There were some excellent exhibits of vetiver handicrafts made from roots, but they are of lower quality than those made of vetiver leaves. The majority of root-based handicrafts are in the south, leaf based handicrafts have the potential of expanding country-wide.
- India should carry out research relating to the carbon sequestering capability of vetiver grass (all indications are that it can) because its deep and mass root systems sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon. Once criteria are properly identified and modeled, it is probably that vetiver growers could benefit from carbon exchange credits. The latter would provide added incentive to farmers to grow vetiver for soil and water conservation purposes. See paragraph below.
- The Indian Vetiver Network can play an important role in expanding the technology in India. The Network could play an important role in linking vetiver plant suppliers with potential users, establishing guidelines for quality plant production, certifying growers who meet prescribed standards, coordinate vetiver handicraft training, and help set research priorities. It has an important role in expanding awareness of the Vetiver System by organizing special one-day workshops for different sectors, and to focus on areas of immediate need, such as highway and railroad stabilization and pollution control.
I am often asked why such an important and effective technology as the Vetiver System is not more widely used for soil and water conservation. I think that during this visit to India we may have stumbled on an important reason. We are always told that vegetative conservation systems are the way to go and that there are many plants that bind the soil, that can be used instead of vetiver. True - most plants protect and bind soil, however there are very few plants (in fact none other than vetiver grass to my knowledge) that when grown as a narrow hedgerow will: improve the shear strength of soil by as much as 40%; retain as much as 90% of sediment flow to create natural terraces, punch through hard pans and slow down and spread out rainfall runoff so that up to 70% of rainfall runoff is captured on the land for groundwater recharge; provide large quantities of good quality forage for livestock; protect nearby crops against pests; improve crop yields; reduce excess crop nutrients and pesticides from entering and polluting surface water rivers and drainage systems; and in the future be probably eligible for carbon credits.
The Vetiver System requires that vetiver grass be planted as a dense and continuous hedgerow on the contour so that it forms an effective barrier that functions with properties as described above. I believe that once people understand these principles and benefits many of the objections to its use will fall away. India is facing major problems that include soil erosion, rapidly declining ground water, and water pollution. The Vetiver System is a proven and very good technology that when used correctly can deal with many of these issues at one time and at low cost!
Published March 8, 2008