Permeable fabrics that have the capability to separate, filter, reinforce, protect, or drain when used in association with soil are known as geotextiles. These are found in three basic forms, usually made from polyester or polypropylene. The forms may be needle punched, i.e. matching felt; heat bonded which resemble iron felt, or woven that are similar to mail bag sacking. Products like geogrids and meshes have also been developed using geotextile technology. Such materials are able to withstand a lot of pressure, soften a fall and are durable.
Geotextiles were intended to act as alternatives to granular soil filters, previously known as filter fabrics. These are placed at the tension surface to strengthen soil, allow planting on steep slopes while securing the slope, and help in restoration of grasslands during storms or severe erosion. Another eco-friendly project, to conserve and restore grasslands, is planting Chrysopogon nodulibarbis, a type of indigenous variety of grass renowned for resilience and ability to keep out weeds once established. Protection from grazing by a trench or barbed wire fencing is also one of the ways to protect grassland ecosystems from extensive damage.
Dayara Bugyal Uttarakhand
A perennial tourist attraction at 11,000 feet, the Dayara Bugyal is a meadow spread over 28 sq km. It is home to a variety of endangered plants like kutki (Picrorhiza kurrao) and spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) utilized in traditional medicine. However, soil erosion has marred this beautiful landscape, with at least 2.5 km of the bugyal damaged, and huge cracks are showing in a 600 metre region. To oversee the restoration work, a six-member committee called Dayara Bugyal Conservation Committee was set up in 2019, with former dean Wildlife Institute of India, G S Rawat, as the technical advisor. The project termed extremely urgent, began last year with the first phase nearing completion. To cater to other meadows in the state, the project cost will be extended by Rs. 6 crore.
In the severely damaged 600 metre area of the Dayara Bugyal, large coir mats made of coconut fibre, which can also be used as a natural fertilizer, have been utilized to prevent soil erosion. All of this was completed in the first phase of the grassland protection project. The coir mats have the ability to hold the land strongly and keep the soil from loosening. The coir mats have been known to be effective for at least two years. These mats are also stuffed with pine leaves to act as check dams during monsoons and prevent streams from eroding the nearby soil. The next phase entails utilizing similar techniques in other parts of the bugyal. The committee also plans to set up nurseries, where small plants, herbs and local grasses will be grown, in order to compensate ill effects of overgrazing in the pastures.
What makes this process more productive, feasible, and most likely to succeed is that local population has been roped in with the conservation efforts. Awareness camps and counselling sessions are being held to help residents understand the strains of overgrazing.
In Uttarakhand, bugyal, famously called ‘Nature’s Own Gardens’, constitute a very fragile ecosystem. Alpine meadows, such as these, are important because all rivers and streams in the Himalayan region originate in these meadows. Thus, protection of the bugyal has been listed as top priority.
Geotextile technology is shaping the way we protect our lands from erosion, particularly in the upper reaches of the ecosystem. With eco-friendly materials, easy to use products, comparatively inexpensive financial aspects, and effective protection capabilities at higher altitudes, geotextiles can easily replace arduous techniques of conservation.