Vetiver Conference held by Highway Bureau of Fujian Province, China

(Prepared by Liyu Xu, China Vetiver Network based on Conference Proceedings and News Letters)

The Fujian Province is a mountainous province with over 120 000 Km2 area, of which 90% belongs to mountains and hills. Soil erosion has been deemed as a serious problem as early as 1950’s. Following fast economic development, new constructions caused more erosion which not only led to environmental problem but also led to frequent damage of the constructions caused by collapse and landslide. In 1996, vetiver system was started to be used for highway protection in Fujian Province. The first demonstrations were showed to the participants during the International Vetiver Workshop held in Fuzhou October 1997 organized by China Vetiver Network. It was valuable that the Highway Administration Bureau of Fujian Province realized the efficient technology very intelligently. Later on 8 July 1998 the Bureau released an official document requesting all of the Branch Bureaus of all of the counties and cities to test vetiver system. Since that time VS has been distributed quite rapidly and smoothly with joint efforts by highway bureaus, highway associations, water and soil conservation offices, NGO institutions and farmer-technicians. VS has been applied in almost all of its counties and cities.

Although much had been done in Fujian Province, the provincial highway bureau and association organized highway engineers to investigate its neighboring Jiangxi and Zhejiang Provinces last year to study more experiences. Recently, to disseminate VS more smoothly the province leaders organized a conference on the application of vetiver system for highway protection on 21-22 June 2001 in Nanping City of northern part of the province. Over 30 participants from Fujian Provincial Highway Administrative Bureau, Fujian Provincial Communication Survey and Design Academy, Fujian Highway Association, and engineers and leaders of all cities and counties of the province.

The conference introduced experiences obtained in the past few years; presented eight key articles which were prepared on their own experience and investigations; distributed conference proceedings that contained article written by both engineers from Fujian Provinces and also other provinces of the country; and investigated field demonstrations which were established on different sections and at different years. All the demonstrations showed the participants that VS is a very effective and economic technology for highway embankment stabilization in mountain area. It can not only protect civil construction but also solve environmental problems. In many places along the highways the slopes remained barren for many years without any vegetation. However, once vetiver grass was planted the whole slope could be recovered in just few months. Not only was vetiver covered the slope, other weeds were stimulated to grow by vetiver since the micro-ecology was improved dramatically.

The Sanming Administrative Highway Bureau introduced their application of using vetiver to protect a huge cut over 100 00 m2 caused by landslides beside the highway. Vetiver was planted in March 1999 and vetiver fences were established in just four months. Although some grass looked unhealthy at that moment caused by very little nutrients and moisture in the semi-weathered rocks and fragments, the roots developed very quickly. It was impossible to pull them out, which means that even at that time vetiver played a key role to protect the slope. Now, two years later the grass fully grew up and slopes no longer clasped.

Indeed, all of the city and county highway institutions have their own demonstrations now. Based on incomplete statistics more than a dozen of highway routes applied Vetiver System so far, that includes national highway No. 205, 319, 324; provincial highway No. 101, 205, 311, and many other highways under provincial highway level. There were 44 sections at the most un-stable places under 15 Branch Highway Bureaus. Some of the applications were financially supported by highway construction projects and some by highway maintenance funds. In addition, a special vetiver project was launched as a Science and Technology Development Project by Fujian Provincial Communication Bureau which is a leading unit of the Fujian Provincial Highway Bureau in 2000. In addition to many vetiver nurseries already established in the recent years, the Communication Bureau requested all of its branch bureaus to establish nursery in order that VS could be disseminated more rapidly.

Along with vetiver application and extension, engineers in Fujian Province also paid attention to practical researches. During the conference engineers introduced their own experience and technology that included the selection of planting season, different planting and management measures for the grass planted in different seasons, land and slope preparations, planting density, selection of healthy planting materials, pruning, irrigation, fertilizer application, relation between contour planting and runoff drainage. They proposed that contour planting was useful for most slopes, while for some huge slopes with multiple slope directions non-contour planting with slight slope might be worth to recommend in order to lead surface runoff flow into ditches along vetiver hedges so that the ground surface water would be drained faster, not to damage the slope during the heavy rain.

Not long ago, the first evaluation and identification conference on the application of vetiver system for highway embankment protection was held in Zhejiang Province of east China on 8-12 November 2000. The conference was co-organized by China Vetiver Network, The Communication Bureau of Zhejiang Province, The Highway Administration Division of Zhejiang Province to identify and evaluate the first vetiver project in that province. It is very pleased to see that more and more highway institutions use VS, organize their own vetiver conferences in China, and more and more vetiver articles were written by highway engineers published by highway journals in China. It is expected that more provinces will use VS in the near future.