Client Profile - Vetiver in Defense of Road Embankments

Friday, October 2, 2009

In my frequent presentations to government agencies and professional groups, I always say that, although Vetiver has been in Puerto Rico for over a 100 years, it arrived without an instruction manual. Since then, the planting methodology known today as the Vetiver System has demonstrated the plant's ability to become an important part of the solution in a soil stabilization problem. Nowhere is this more evident in our island than in our road embankments, where most of the soil has a very high clay content and is very prone to slippage after it becomes saturated with heavy rains.

Not long ago,
I was invited to deliver a Vetiver presentation to the design engineers of our Highways Authority, an agency within the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Instead of the two persons that I expected at that meeting, I was privileged to have an audience of nineteen. Within two weeks we were involved in a project on Road 30, a major highway where a low point in the road spills a high volume of water over a steep embankment.

Although this project was close to completion near the town of Las Piedras, the Highways Authority, asked their contractor, Constructora Hartmann, to additionally protect the gabion structures and soil fill by adding 4000 Vetiver plants in strategically planted rows that will provide added stability and contain soil erosion over the surface of the reconstructed slopes.

Engineer Enrique Hartmann, and his namesake father made sure that their staff attained proficiency in the proper planting techniques in accordance with the Vetiver
System guidelines. The attached picture and more in this additional Picasa Album attest to this well-done job. I feel confident that this first trial of the Vetiver plant in a major road stabilization project will provide the validation needed for its widespread acceptance. I will update this blog in the future with more pictures and results.

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