A century of lead mining in Kabwe, officially abandoned two decades ago, has poisoned millions of people and left the city with deadly concentrations of toxic lead in the soil and water.
Vetiver. The plant that prevents hydrogeological instability
This heavy metal tolerant plant is considered miraculous in many regions of the world. Thanks to its many thin roots it prevents soil erosion.
Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides e Chrysopogon nemoralis) is a perennial bunchgrass of the Poaceae family. It is native to India but it is also grown in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and in the areas of subtropical climate. It is used in cosmetics as a scented essence.
But the biological properties of this bunchgrass, considered a pioneer species (the first to colonize previously disrupted or damaged ecosystems), are not only used in cosmetics. In fact, it is renowned in the engineering sector because it tackles hydrogeological instability and erosion.
The plant, indeed, can grow up to 1.5 metres high and, what’s more important, has many deep roots. These are very thin and resistant and they can grow down to 5 metres below the surface in any type of soil. Moreover, it is an extremely resistant plant that can grow in acidic and basic soils with pH included between 4 and 12, saline areas with temperatures included between -15°C and + 55°C.
Therefore, it is widely used in bioengineering. Roots make the soil more compact, avoiding that it be washed out by intense rain or in case of river overflowing. If planted on a slope, it can avoid the movement of soil layers and landslides. It also absorbs large amounts of water, preventing them to stay on the surface and to be transported downstream.
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