Wonder grass that checks erosion

Vetiver is a perennial grass of Poaceae family. It is a common grass that can be easily spotted anywhere in the country. In Western and North India, the grass is popularly known as khus khus.

Vetiver is called wonder grass because of its key economic and ecological importance. The plant has odorous roots which can be used for extraction of essential oil used in the manufacture of scents and fragrances. The ecological importance is due to its ability to act as a natural barrier against erosion and soil pollution.

The plant is called lavancha in Kannada. One of the major uses of the plant is the role it plays in erosion control.

Unlike other grasses, the roots grow deep which makes it an excellent stationary hedge for stream banks and terrace paddies. Close growing culms (stems) also help to block the runoff of surface water. Because of its ability to propagate itself by small offsets instead of underground stolons, it is non-invasive and can be easily be controlled by cultivation of the soil at the boundary of the hedge.

Vetiver system is a technology of soil conservation and water quality management. It is a natural purification mechanism. Because of its excellent fixation property, it is widely used in high end perfumes.

It is also used traditionally as a medicine. Vetiver or the lavancha is widely used in coastal regions for water used for drinking purposes. A small bunch of lavancha dipped in a pot can not only purify the water but also provide an aromatic odour to the water we drink. The grass is also used as an insecticide.The grass is also used to make hand fans, mats and other home decor products, which are all eco-friendly.
K S Someswara

Is Shell on slippery ground?
A coalition of about a dozen environmental groups is up in arms against Shell’s plans to begin drilling exploratory wells off the North Slope of Alaska this summer, spokesmen for the groups said.

The groups, including Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, Oceana and the National Audubon Society, will challenge the Interior Department’s approval of Shell’s plans for responding to a potential spill.

This year, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which oversees offshore oil and gas drilling, gave the green light to Shell’s plans to cap a runaway well and clean up any spilled oil as it moves ahead with plans to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas over the next two years.

Company and senior Interior Department officials have said that Shell is putting in place systems that meet or exceed current regulations on drilling safety.

But environmental advocates claim that Shell’s plans do not provide adequate protection for endangered and threatened wildlife and fragile shorelines. They contend that no system for capping a well has ever been tested in Arctic waters and no technology for cleaning up oil in ice formations has ever been successfully demonstrated. They further charge that the Interior Department improperly approved Shell’s response plans. In March, Shell filed an unusual suit in federal court seeking to pre-empt such litigation from environmental groups, but it has not been successful.

John M Broder  New York Times News Service

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