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The environmental and socio-economic contribution of palm geotextiles to sustainable development and soil conservation

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Green geotextiles combat soil erosion

Novel geotextiles made with different types of palm leaves may one day replace synthetic materials used in a myriad of engineering solutions.

Industrial Technologies

Synthetic geotextiles have been used extensively in civil engineering applications such as roads and airfields to protect against soil erosion and facilitate draining. Recent research has shown that geotextile mats made from palm leaves could be an ingenious and cost-effective sustainable alternative compared to their synthetic counterparts. The EU-funded project Borassus investigated this opportunity. The project assessed different geotextiles made from black rhun palm, Borassus aethiopum, burity palm and/or Mauritia flexuosa among others, through case studies and analysis in 10 countries worldwide. The main objective was to evaluate soil erosion and document the effects of palm-mat geotextiles with respect to water and wind erosion. Such information had never been documented despite the use of palm in construction over millennia. Borassus therefore conducted laboratory tests and field studies that measured quality, performance and durability, and socioeconomic impacts, elaborating manufacturing and production standards as well. The results showed that bio-geotextiles could decrease water runoff and soil erosion considerably, in addition to minimising evaporation from soil in dry periods. Moreover, the project proved that the approach worked in practically all climates and environments, such as vineyards, arable land, degraded land, orchards, archeological sites and other settings. as these biodegradable geotextiles are made from indigenous tropical and subtropical fibres, the findings represent an important leap in encouraging sustainable civil engineering practices. Their production has proven to boast low energy production, representing an inexpensive method to conserve soil. This is very good news for both developing and highly developed countries.

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