HISTORY OF GEOTEXTILES

Use of natural materials to obviate problems posed by ‘difficult’ soils dates back to several centuries. We find evidences of use of woven mats made of reeds in ziggurants (temples) of Babylonia, of tree twigs with leaves in construction of the Great Wall of China and the like. Such improvised practice is still in vogue in some parts of India. In Kerala there is a convention to spread coconut leaves over sub-grades. Stolons of trees are laid on soft marshy soils to facilitate walking in some developing countries. Even the developed countries are increasingly favouring the old practice of using vegetation to control erosion of the surface soil for environmental reasons.

Application of natural products with improvisations sharply dwindled after discovery of artificial polymeric (synthetic) materials in early 1950s. It was the pressure of commercial necessity that prompted the related industry located in developed countries to diversify. They watched the decline in consumption of traditional textile materials arising mainly out of import of cheaper variety of textile products from the developing countries. Taking the cue from the improvised uses of natural ingredients in overcoming soil-related problems, technologists thought of making fabrics with man-made materials such as polyamide, polyethylene that could address the precise technical requirements to improve soil strength and behaviour. This was how the concept of geotextiles originated. The Netherlands was the first country to take the initiative and used man-made geotextiles in 1953 in the massive Delta Project in the country to save it from ravages of floods generated from the North Sea. Other developed countries such as the USA
followed suit and started using man-made geotextiles for prevention of soil erosion in particular with other countries in Europe emulating. By the late1960s man-made geeotextiles became globally popular.

It has to be admitted that the effectiveness of man-made geotextiles was established after years of rigorous research, studies and field trials backed by intensive marketing by the producers before the users felt confident to use the new product.

The growth of man-made geotextiles over the last three decades has been remarkable. From 10.2 million sq.meters in 1970 the consumption soared to 2475 million sq.meters in 2006-07— the growth rate being 10% to 15% since 2000-01. The market for geotextiles is still confined to the USA, Canada, developed countries in Western Europe, Japan and Australia. These countries account for nearly 33% of the global consumption. The rate of growth would have been higher had other countries preferred its use during the said period.

The striking part of the growth of the global geotextile sector is that geotextiles made of natural ingredients like jute, coir, sisal, kenaf, ramie constitute only 5% to 6% of the present global consumption. Admittedly there was not much R & D exercise with natural fibres initially. Behaviour of natural fibres being markedly different from that of man-made geotextiles rigorous research and studies on each of the potential fibres were called for. The R & D effort with jute fibre started first in Indian Jute Industries’ Research Association, Kolkata (IJIRA). The effort lacked the desired focus in the initial stages. Nevertheless it was possible to convince some of the end-using organizations such as Calcutta Port Trust to undertake field trials in the late 1980s. Concurrently some of the overseas technical institutions such as Singapore National University, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology also initiated R & D exercises with jute.

One of the major reasons of the insignificant consumption of natural geotextiles could be the lack of systematic and thorough study on performance of Jute Geotextiles (JGT) and its effects on soil of varying characteristics under different nature, magnitude and frequency of imposed loads. The studies conducted so far in the field of natural geotextiles in general have not been as intensive as is desired. Things however have started changing in so far as jute is concerned. We have been able to fathom the mechanism of Jute Geotextiles in transforming soil behavior.

The global textile industry is now poised for transformation. Not only geotextiles, but a host of other diversified uses of textiles have been conceived. Innovative uses of textiles have opened up new avenues in research and studies in textile technology. Quite a few new textile products have been developed having non-traditional uses. These were first branded as ‘Industrial Textiles’ and have been subsequently styled as ‘Technical Textiles’. Geotextiles come under Technical Textiles (‘Geotech’ category). Jute Geotextiles is the natural variant of geotextiles now termed Geosynthetics according to international convention embracing both its artificial and natural variants.

FIRST USE OF JGT

Interestingly Jute hessian was applied in a road at Dundee, Scotland in 1920, in Strand Road at Kolkata by Bengal PWD in 1934 and in Mynamar during the 2nd World War with reported success. The concept of geotextiles was not known at that time. There was a long period of lull after these applications. JGT was first consciously used for slope stabilization at Sahasradhara, Uttarakhand by CSWCRTI 1987, for control of riverbank erosion at Nayachar island in the Hugli estuary by Calcutta Port Trust in 1989, for restoration of a severely damaged road at Kankinada, Andhra Pradesh by CRRI in 1996 and for control of railway track settlement at Madhusudanpur in Howrah-Burdwan Chord line in 2001.

 

JGT in River Bank Erosion Control, River Phulahar, Malda, West Bengal


Failure of Bank Treated with
Conventional method,2004 


Laying of JGT on  Prepared bank


Stabilized bank treated with JGT,2006

 

Slope Stabilization with JGT, Sahashradhara  Derhadun, Uttarakhand


Destabilized Slope of Mine Spoil,  1987


Laying of JGT on Slope


Stabilized Slope with
Vegetative Cover,1991