Almora: Bilayat grass, also called trap grass, could be the thing to prevent landslides. The roots of this variety of grass grows into soil and rock, and binds matter so fast that land will not slide. A non-governmental organisation in Nainital, working in collaboration with the Bareilly-based Indian Veterinary Research Institute, has suggested that this grass could be grown in the hills of Uttarakhand to prevent landslides.
Green Hills Welfare Society, the NGO, which has worked in disaster management and forestation, has found that bilayat grass is thicker than ordinary grass; each blade is 6 cm long and 6 mm thick. The stem is moist and nodules of grass are present even inside rocks.
Krishna Kaushal Shah, founder of the NGO, has been researching this variety of grass for years. "Trap grass once spread over the entire region and protected rocks from breaking down. Being long, its nodules are rooted inside rocks. We have planted this grass in many areas of Nainital district and have got positive results - landslides which were once common in this area have reduced 70% after planting this grass."
Shah's team also planted trap grass in areas of Pithoragarh which are landslide prone, and got positive results. Shah says cattle that graze on this variety of grass also yield more milk. This is a fast-spreading variety of grass too.
The first test of trap grass was conducted in Naina village, about 10 km from Nainital town. Positive results there led the NGO to plant the grass in and around Nainital district. Dr Sailendra Shah, technical officer of Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) Bareilly has also examined the benefits of trap grass.
"Yes, it is true. Trap grass prevents the breaking down of rock and thus checks landslides. It remains evergreen through the year. It does not dry up during winter. Local people use it as cattle fodder. One of the best things about this grass is that it doesn't get destroyed in forest fire, since its roots lie deep inside rocks. During a forest fire, the part of the grass outside rocks is burnt. After a couple of good rains, it grows back very fast, which doesn't happen to trees," Shah said.
"In IVRI, I am talking to the director and we might plan a research project on trap grass in our Mukhteswar campus. I have also sent a sample of the grass to my friends who are working in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research," Shah said.