Finance Minister T.M.Thomas Isaac said that the Public Works Department had agreed to utilize coir geotextiles on certain stretches of roads in Kerala on a trial basis.
Studies conducted by premier educational institutions have proved the efficacy of the natural fibre in applications for reinforcement of pavements and improvement of soil, he said. The Minister was inaugurating a national seminar on ‘uses and established environment friendly applications of coir geotextiles,’ organised by the Coir Development Department here.
Durability and cost effectiveness of the use of coir geotextiles have been established in studies on rural roads conducted by Engineering College, Thiruvananthapuram, and Cochin University of Science and Technology. Various stretches in Thiruvananthapuram, Thanneermukkam and Thuravur had given positive results in terms of durability and economy.
The PWD will make use of the material on a stretch of about 3 km on the Ambalappuzha-Thiruvalla road on a trial basis. More tests were required by PWD and the additional costs required for such studies would be borne by the Coir Development Department, the Minister said.
Permission has already been given by the concerned authorities to use coir geotextiles on National Highways. The Karnataka government had already permitted the use of coir geotextiles for various projects including protection of tank bunds.
The Kerala government was planning to incorporate Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme in various schemes for soil and water conservation. According to revised norms of the scheme, the limits on spending on the cost of the material have been increased, which could facilitate the use of coir geotextiles on a large scale.
The Minister said the present practice of stone-walling Kerala’s coastline for preventing coastal erosion could be replaced by coir geotextile based construction practices. About 14.5 per cent of Kerala’s land is flood prone; 53 per cent of coastline is erosion prone; 4,626 km of of roads in the State are in flood prone areas; 695 km of roads are in landslide prone area and 254 km of roads are in coastal hazard prone area. Reinforcement of such roads with coir geotextiles would run into millions worth business, he said.
Traditional coir workers could be provided with work if the coir geotextile business improves. Efforts were being undertaken to upgrade the machinery in the sector for increasing productivity and quality of the product.
C.P.Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Coir Board, called for introducing an engineering degree course on coir technology in Kerala.
Anathalavattom Anandan, vice-chairman, apex body for coir; N.Padmakumar, Director, Coir Development; Kumararaja, Secretary, Coir Board; R.Nazar, chairman, Kerala State Coir Corporation; Sheila Evangeline, Professor, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram; and K.S.Beena, Professor, Cusat, and others spoke.