Madagascar’s RR: Plants Rescue

Madagascar’s RR: Plants to the Rescue

Music; Ambience: Hurricane, train whistle, locomotive

JM: When two devastating storms struck the island of Madagascar, they wiped out a railroad line which was crucial to the local populace. Seeking a low-tech solution to restore the railroad, scientists turned to plants. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Karen Freudenberger is regional director of Madagascar’s FCE Railroad Rehabilitation.

KF: “In order to reopen the railway line, we really had to look at all aspects of operation, because everything was dysfunctional once the cyclones had gone through. The drainage didn’t work at all, the tracks had been buried and ties were starting to rust. So we started with drainage, because in terms of protecting the line from future cyclone damage, that was absolutely essential. And then we started to look at how we could stabilize the slopes, because it goes through this very mountainous area, to make sure that the next heavy rainstorm we didn’t have the same types of problems. And in looking at that, we looked at a whole array of solutions. The conventional engineering solutions would call for putting up major masonry walls in order to hold back some of those steep and erosion-prone hillsides, but we didn’t have money to do that, so we looked at some alternative technologies that are being developed around the world. And in particular we looked at a plant called vetiver, which has incredible soil stabilization properties, because its roots grow nine to ten feet deep and very quickly, and create a wall of roots that goes down through the soil and acts almost in the same way that tensile steel would, if you put in a steel wall to hold up that hillside.”

JM: Planting vetiver on the steep slopes alongside the railroad tracks curbed further erosion and enabled Madagascar’s engineers to reopen the railroad line. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.
I’m Jim Metzner.

Madagascar's RR: Plants Rescue

Madagascar scientists found plants that were a great low-cost solution for stabilizing hillsides.
Air Date:06/20/2014
Scientist:
Transcript:

Madagascar's RR: Plants to the Rescue

Music; Ambience: Hurricane, train whistle, locomotive

JM: When two devastating storms struck the island of Madagascar, they wiped out a railroad line which was crucial to the local populace. Seeking a low-tech solution to restore the railroad, scientists turned to plants. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Karen Freudenberger is regional director of Madagascar's FCE Railroad Rehabilitation.

KF: "In order to reopen the railway line, we really had to look at all aspects of operation, because everything was dysfunctional once the cyclones had gone through. The drainage didn't work at all, the tracks had been buried and ties were starting to rust. So we started with drainage, because in terms of protecting the line from future cyclone damage, that was absolutely essential. And then we started to look at how we could stabilize the slopes, because it goes through this very mountainous area, to make sure that the next heavy rainstorm we didn't have the same types of problems. And in looking at that, we looked at a whole array of solutions. The conventional engineering solutions would call for putting up major masonry walls in order to hold back some of those steep and erosion-prone hillsides, but we didn't have money to do that, so we looked at some alternative technologies that are being developed around the world. And in particular we looked at a plant called vetiver, which has incredible soil stabilization properties, because its roots grow nine to ten feet deep and very quickly, and create a wall of roots that goes down through the soil and acts almost in the same way that tensile steel would, if you put in a steel wall to hold up that hillside."

JM: Planting vetiver on the steep slopes alongside the railroad tracks curbed further erosion and enabled Madagascar's engineers to reopen the railroad line. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.
I'm Jim Metzner.