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Local Solutions to Global Issues: Coir Bhoovastra - Noyna Roy

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

This series of articles is dedicated to identifying local solutions and efforts that have been taking place on a small scale, that can help solve global issues. I will be researching different solutions and innovations and will update this series every 2 weeks. Please feel free to send us an email (angelanoynarhea@gmail.com) if you have any suggestions or ideas that have been carried out in your hometown that you would like me to research and share. We already have the knowledge, it is all about increasing our education and raising awareness.

Choir Bhoovastra Video via: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc_1k1Mvo4I

I came across Coir Bhoovastra, from Kerala, India in a WhatsApp video forwarded from my aunt, Ritu Raina. “Coir” is the outer husk coconut fibre, “Bhoo” means earth and “vastra” means cloth. At 50 INR a square metre, Coir Bhoovastra is a biodegradable material that can absorb water, prevent soil erosion, and enrich the quality of the soil. Soil erosion occurs when rainfall or rough winds cause the top layer of soil (topsoil) to disperse, reducing nutrient and mineral content.

What is Coir Bhoovastra & the Benefits

This geotextile has high tensile strength and can protect from falling debris and landslides during the monsoon season. Completely natural, it biodegrades into mulch after five to six years, adding nutrients to the soil. The cloth establishes a microclimate creating a suitable environment for plants to grow. Within three weeks of placing the Coir Bhoovastra, small saplings sprouted, and within five weeks, they formed thick layers of vegetation. This environmentally responsible invention revives biodiversity, creating a positive feedback cycle that restores terrestrial and aquatic habitats found near paddy fields. In addition to benefiting the environment, the production of coir uses local materials and employs around 200,000 people annually, reviving a traditional handicraft industry and contributing to the local economy. It is aesthetic and customisable, making the product easy to transport, store and apply.

Apart from slope management near paddy fields, Coir Bhoovastra levelled out marshy lands and acted as a moisture-absorbing material when used under the roads leading up to the Le-Meridian Hotel in Cochin; it was also used to create a subsurface channel across the riverbed of the Bharatapuzha river, thus fixing water shortages during the hot summer season.

Coir Bhoovastra Uses via: http://www.ncrmi.org/cgtd.htm

Coir Bhoovastra Industry & Challenges

Despite the numerous environmental and socio-economic benefits, expanding the industry is challenging, and investment is required for infrastructure, production planning, and marketing. The producers are heavily reliant on a seasonal, fluctuating market, preventing a stable income. The production process relies on a handloom thereby limiting its production capacity. Synthetic nylon textiles, mass-manufactured using the latest technology and offered a lower price (40 INR), is an unsustainable patch-up alternative and competitor.

Coir Bhoovastra via https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmeskyhigh&psig=AOvVaw2WjrrAey_tfvQostH56PoN&ust=1592819736080000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA4QjhxqFwoTCKiEr5LSkuoCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAR

Scaling Up

To increase productivity and use of this sustainable solution, we need to fulfil two objectives: increase funding and boost public awareness.

There is a large domestic market for Coir Bhoovastra, and this requires greater investments from government departments including the Environment, Agriculture and Horticulture, Roads and Highways, and Construction. Currently, the Indian government is looking to increase investment in local businesses to further the Make in India campaign, and this industry is the ideal candidate. The investment can go under several schemes and subsidies, including, but not limited to, the “Integrated Nutrient Management” scheme by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare that encourages organic farming and the use of sustainable agriculture methods.

Apart from government expenditure, microfinance organisations can provide loans to low-income industries as a source of investment for the production of Coir Bhoovastra. This will increase public involvement in the project. If expanded efficiently, this industry can spread nationwide, unlocking a much larger market. Banks can also invest in this industry, as the demand for the product is quite inelastic and will likely remain high as farms will continue to replace the geotextiles every few years. India, with around 7500kms of coastline, provides abundant natural resources for the production of coconut and the supply will not be compromised.

The investment will automatically lead to increased public awareness about the sustainability of this product. Coir Bhoovastra is composed of a highly-abundant resource, and the production relies on skills that exist in South India. If we increase investment and spread awareness of Coir Bhoovastra, we can not only address environmental issues— soil erosion and decreasing biodiversity— but also preserve traditional handicrafts.

One solution to many issues, this is Coir Bhoovastra.

Work Cited:

Ajithkumar, P. Coirboard | :: COIR IS GREEN BUSINESS ::, coirboard.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/bvast-mktg.pdf.

Correspondent, Special. "Coir Bhoovastra is a Game Changer: Minister." The Hindu, 12 Dec. 2017, www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/coir-bhoovastra-is-a-game-changer-minister/article21521980.ece.

Government of India. "Programmes & Schemes." Department of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers Welfare | Mo A&FW | GoI, 20 June 2020, agricoop.nic.in/programmes-schemes-listing. Accessed 22 June 2020.

Indiamart. "Coir Geotextile at Best Price in India." Business Directory, India Business Directory,Companies Directory in India, dir.indiamart.com/impcat/coir-geotextile.html. Accessed 22 June 2020.

National Coir Research & Management Institute. "Official Website of National Coir Research & Management Institute (NCRMI)." Official Website of National Coir Research & Management Institute (NCRMI), www.ncrmi.org/cgtd.htm.

The News Minute. "Coir Bhoovastra: Kerala's water bodies go through a makeover during monsoon." YouTube, 13 June 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc_1k1Mvo4I.

Edited by Aman Majmudar

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