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Impacting all SDGs in Nepal with Vetiver

Impacting all SDGs in Nepal with Vetiver

Aditya Goenka, a student from Nepal who topped the Richmond American University at London in BA Economics (Hons), leading to distinguished offers from the prestigious Cambridge and London School of Economics for pursuing his Masters’, has committed himself to helping alleviate poverty at large, reshaping the socio-economic landscape in Nepal with the help of a multi-utility grass called Vetiver. He envisions extending his paradigm of sustainable and inclusive development across the developing world once he sees Nepal’s underprivileged empowered with sustainable and inclusive development in place. 

He believes that comprehending ‘Ecosystem based Adaptation (EBA)’ holds the key to the holistic development of a nation. For us in Nepal, this is very pertinent. It can be understood as interactions that connect several approaches to addressing climate change adaptation, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, and socioeconomic development with people being at the center of the approach. For the vulnerable communities, it assumes even larger significance.

He has embraced Vetiver, a specific vegetation known for its capability as a sustainable agriculture tool along with being a bioengineering marvel. It impacts all the 17 SDGs in Nepal. The initiative covers diverse need-based arenas as critical as soil and water conservation, disaster mitigation, wasteland reclamation, groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration, phytoremediation of abandoned mines, quarries etc, substitution of fossil fuel with green energy, landfills, leachates, and many more.

The impact of his work has been revolutionary across various applications, with the aforesaid being just a few examples. Vetiver plantations can be seen at several public projects in Nepal having solved bioengineering challenges with elan—such as the under-construction ‘Fast Track’ road project from Nijgadh to Kathmandu, Pokhara International Airport, Mahakali Irrigation Project, Wasteland Reclamation for farmers and several more. 

Goenka is confident that most of the critical issues as challenging as poverty, climate, hunger, unemployment in Nepal (and in extension across the developing world) can be addressed with Vetiver which is not just a grass but, it’s a technology. It is a C4 perennial grass that fits well in ecosystem service models contributing to multifarious environmental applications, and offers sustainable opportunities for carbon sequestration as well.

Vetiver has unique morphological, physiological and ecological characteristics including its massive root system, tolerance to highly adverse growing conditions and to high levels of toxicities. As a fast growing grass, it possesses some features of both grasses and trees by having profusely grown, deep penetrating root systems that can offer both erosion prevention and control of shallow movement of surface earth mass. It is also cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

On the poverty alleviation narrative, Goenka is working on a model wherein the farmers can bid adieu to the less revenue-accruing traditional crops and plant Vetiver as a livelihood measure which would fetch them several times more of revenue—a buy back arrangement with institutional tie-up is being worked out by him. This will enable a large number of farmers to come out of misery. There are several farmers in the terai whose stretches of lands got swept away by devastating rivers turning those into wastelands. 

Since Vetiver evolves in such lands too, there will still be a restoration of fortune for them which provides a sigh of relief to this young epitome of humanity, Aditya whose mission is driven on the premise of his pledge to bring a smile on the faces of these farmers many of who have been rendered “Sukumbasis”. He is working with his plantations right in a flood-devastated region of the downstream Bagmati river where there is a settlement of ‘Sukumbasis’ whom he provides employment and supports with Vetiver plants to guard whatever little lands some of them could save when a major flood struck the region in 2050.     

Goenka envisions helping usher-in security for the nation across all the following attributes if the wastelands in the country which are absolutely redundant today, could be put to Vetiver plantation. food, jobs, energy, climate, economic rewards, et al, can be available to the nation.