Environmental concerns boost demand for coir geotextiles, pith

Environmental concerns boost demand for coir geotextiles, pith

Kochi: Environmental degradation has had a surprising side effect. It has given a new lease of life to Kerala’s age-old coir industry and fuelled the rise in demand for two of its products—coir geotextiles and coir pith. Meshes or nets woven from coir are known as geotextiles.

A.C. Jose, chairman of the government trade promotion body Coir Board, says with efforts to check soil erosion and prevent landslides gaining ground globally, coir geotextiles have found new takers from the mining industry. These are laid on slopes to check soil erosion.

The biodegradable quality of coir helps in creating environment-friendly meshes or nets, which are spread over slopes to hold soil together. The degradation process takes years and coir geotextiles help in arresting landslides.

The Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka has recently placed a Rs6 lakh order for coir geotextiles for use in the mines to help check landslides. The gold and diamond mining industry in South Africa has also expressed interest in it.

In a related development, a South African delegation is expected to attend a five-day India International Coir Fair, organized by the Coir Board in Kochi from 7 December. A special technical session on coir geotextiles for soil bioengineering will be part of the fair.

Coir pith, made from retted or cured coconut husk after the fibres are separated, is being widely used as manure. The husk pulp is decomposed after immersion in water for 6-10 months. The fibre in them is then separated and the residue, pith, is dried and used as manure. Coir pith is the largest product being exported from India, says Jose.

Of the 106,000 tonnes of coir and coir products, worth Rs340 crore exported during April-October, coir pith accounted for as much as 44,471 tonnes, worth Rs34.4 crore.

The fair, which is being held after six years, would be attended by 110 foreign delegates from leading coir-importing countries such as the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Poland and the Netherlands.

“The fair is in its true sense a reverse delegation," Jose adds. “Instead of Indian traders going abroad to display their products, people from importing countries will be here to get a sense of the coir products to be showcased. Delegates will have business interactions with the trade here and this platform can be used tostrike deals."