DA NANG (VNS) — Over 40 provinces and cities have been planting vetiver grass to mitigate a spate of environmental problems, experts said at a conference yesterday.
They said the grass helps deal with water and soil pollution, desertification, climate change and disaster mitigation as well as prevention of erosion and stabilising river banks and sea dykes, in Viet Nam's fighting against serious global climate change in the future.
On the sidelines of the 6th International Conference on Vetiver System (ICV-6) held in the central city of Da Nang, geologist Tran Tan Van said the grass (Vetiveria Zizanioides) has been used to protect highway dykes, cover waste dumps at coal mines, and on dioxin contaminated soil.
"It's a mass application for solving the worst environment pollution and for protecting infrastructure projects and beaches from erosion.
"Vetiver was used to ease dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Airport, one of three worst chemical contaminated sites in Viet Nam after Da Nang Airport and Phu Cat Airport in Binh Dinh Province," he said, adding the grass can be used for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
Van, who is director of Viet Nam Institute of Geo-sciences and Mineral Resources and Director of Viet Nam Vetiver Network, said Viet Nam has yet processed the grass as material for craft, textile and oil production.
Participating in the conference, titled "Empowering sustainable development," was Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn from Thailand.
The Princess, chairwoman of His Majesty the King of Thailand's Chaipattana Foundation, also granted US$15,000 from the foundation for ‘The King of Thailand Vetiver Awards' given to six most outstanding vetiver works.
Dick Grimshaw, founder of the Vetiver Network International, said the "miracle grass" could protect the earth by solving serious environment problems including soil erosion and climate change impacts at low cost and in a sustainable way.
In 2001 and 2003, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Ministry of Transportation allowed the use of Vetiver in disaster mitigation and infrastructure protection such as slope of Ho Chi Minh Trails and river banks and sea dyke in An Giang, Quang Ngai and Nam Dinh provinces.
La Van Hieu of the Da Nang-based Construction Advanced Technology Limited company (SBTV) said planting the grass in infrastructure projects costs only a seventh of concrete structures.
"A square metre of vetiver in protection of upper road sides costs only VND100,000 (US$4.7) and just takes a few months. Meanwhile, one square metre of concrete cast walls costs VND700,000 ($33).
"From 2011 onwards, we had grown vetiver on a 4,000sq.m slope on Son Tra Mountains to prevent landslides during the rainy seasons. When the powerful Nari Storm hit in 2013, the green vetiver layer kept the road wall stable," he said.
"Vetiver coverage on a 600sq.m roadside slope at the Laguna Resort in Hue and various projects in Dak Lak, Quang Nam have been at least 25 per cent cheaper than concrete solution."
He also said a 5ha vetiver nursery in Da Nang, recognised by the Vetiver Network International, could provide saplings for protecting roadside slopes as well as mountainsides in the near future.
A vetiver farm in the Green Islet on the Son Tra peninsula has helped ease water pollution, the conference heard.
Experts said at the conference that vetiver offered an effective bio-engineering solution in Viet Nam, offering itself of craft work as well as feed for cattle.
Vetiver-made textile products and souvenirs from Thailand were displayed at the two-day conference.
The conference was an opportunity for researchers from Asia, Africa, Australia, America and Viet Nam to exchanging experiences in widening application of the grass world-wide. — VNS