Vetiver: a Possible Initiator of Afforestation/Reforestation Projects Under CDM

By M. P. Singh
August 2013

Mr. Sing is the CEO of Earthizenz in Chandigarh, India.


The Khalsa Heritage Memorial is a museum about Sikhism located on a 75-acre (300,000 m²) site in the holy city of Anand Pur Sahib, Punjab, India. The museum is intended to commemorate 500 years of Sikh history and the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa, the scriptures written by the 10th and last Guru of Sikhism, Gobind Singh.

The Foundation Stone was laid on Nov, 22, 1998, and the renowned Architect of Yad Vashem (World Center for Holocaust Research, Education, Documentation and Commemoration in Jerusalem), Moshe Safdie, was engaged for the Concept, Design and Overseeing the Project.

It is worthwhile reproducing the concept from a transcript of his video:

“My proposal was to flood the valley into a series of water gardens and to link it all to the fort. The structures rise from the Sand Cliffs. They are built in concrete and sandstones; the roofs are stainless Steel. They are facing the South and reflecting light towards the Temple itself. As you come from the North, it is all masonry growing out of sand cliffs, as you come from the Himalayas, evoking the tradition of the fortress.”

The Problem

The concept of Moshe Safdie was excellent and imaginative, but the sand cliffs could not be stabilized enough all these years. They eroded at every rainfall, thus,

Many methods were tried, nothing succeeded. At the time of intervention some people were really suspicious of a Bio-Engineering solution via Vetiver.

Our Intervention

We started humbly. The Indian Architects (we were told that even Moshe Safdie was opposed) were not pleased with Vetiver. So we started in places where the aesthetics were not the prime consideration. We applied the usual methods, given in the Vetiver manuals for stabilizing the hillocks. We protected the swales from the migrating soil.
A steep slope of a filled up road batter was stabilized.

The Result

The results were excellent. The relatively bear hillocks became lush green and the hillocks seemed to be retaining moisture all year round.

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It is then that we were asked to do something about the silt coming into the water body and all over on the inner roads. The comparative photos of the before and after  scenarios of the Re-vegitation and Reforestation, are reproduced here.

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Similar comparison of the silt control is part of  the oral presentation. Not only did the Vetiver hold the cliffs together, it also caused the local species to flourish. It appeared that soon the local species will take over from Vetiver. But then the vetiver will be shaded out & die: like a true martyr it would have fought a lone battle, initially and after vanquishing the enemy, would perish. Few years down the line, an onlooker will not even believe that a thing like Vetiver ever existed on these ‘sand cliffs’ as the architect called them. This was a true example of a re-vegitation & reforestation where the process begins with a species that vanishes after winning the battle for the local species.

A few years back (in 2006) the author had written a paper: “Village Empowered: Rural Bio-energy Production as a Bundled CDM Project”. This paper revolved around the application of CDM under the Kyoto Protocol to the entire chain of production of  bio-diesel; starting from the Afforestation & Reforestation with Jatropha to the actual usage of Bio-Diesel. The program in India was based on the premise that absolute wastelands could be used to grow bio-diesel. This did not turn out to be exactly true.

This miracle of Vetiver has forced us to revisit forestation and re-forestation of degraded and useless land. We have with us a “martyr”(Vetiver) to lead the assault on the negativities that are troubling the land.

There are several instances of Vetiver improving various types of degraded soils.

The assumption is that over a span of several months, vetiver would have prepared the ground for the local species and some new desirable species to flourish on the same land. Obviously there will be a sharp rise in the quality of the land and the local Carbon Stock would increase manifold. Which further means that Vetiver can be the Champion of a GHG mitigating project, under the Kyoto Protocol for now (up to 2010) and under the same or some other arrangement that the COP might agree to.

Afforestation & Reforestation

As per COP7 (2001) through COP 10 (Feb. 2005), afforestation and reforestation are the only eligible land use activities in the CDM. The definitions of forest for this purpose is:

Special provisions are provided for small scale afforestation & reforestation projects. Many small scale projects can also be bundled (UNFCCC), so that the fixed costs of registration can be spread out.

The CDM Impact On Afforestation & Reforestation

The first phase of CDM until the year 2012 is open to reforestation and afforestation projects in developing countries as defined in the CDM guidelines and modalities and procedures finalized at COP 9 & COP 10 for such projects. The main criteria to be met by projects include meeting benchmarks of additionality (ie on top of business as usual scenario), permanence of emission reductions achieved and no leakage (ie ensuring that emissions achieved at one location are not emitted elsewhere).

"Small-scale afforestation and reforestation project activities under the CDM" are those that are expected to result in net anthropogenic greenhouse gas removals by sinks of less than 8 kilotonnes of C02 per year and are developed or implemented by low-income communities and individuals as determined by the host party. If a small-scale afforestation or reforestation project activity under the CDM results in net anthropogenic greenhouse gas removals by sinks greater than 8 kilotonnes of C02 per year, the excess removals will not be eligible for the issuance of tCERs or ICERs". ( UNFCCC).

The key features as per the definition are:

Assuming an average productivity of 5 tons/ha, the area required for bundled small scale CDM projects would range between 250 to 400 ha, varying with species and plant density. The energy plantations of Jatropha would be principally eligible under this category of CDM projects. (Hooda & Rawat, 2004). At the current rate of exchange of CERs (as per trading figures of June, 2008, the rate is Euro 20 or US$ 30/tCO2e) this translates into $ 240,000 per annum, which means $ 2,400,000 (Rs. 10.32 Crore @ Rs.43/USD) over a 10 year period. Taking the worst case scenario, that is size of project as 400 Ha, we have CDM credit amounting to $6000/ha or Rs. 258,000/ha. This is nearly 10 times the total cost of cultivation on one ha of wasteland.

The above is a broad example, however, each project would be calculated as per its ‘Net anthropogenic GHG removals by sinks’,vwhich would be ‘Actual net GHG removals by sinks’ minus ‘Baseline net GHG removals by sinks ’, minus ‘Leakage’.

This means that the Government needs to:

 Ensure that the credits accruing thus, are tranferred to the small farmer via the gaurantee of pay back of loan refinanced by banks like World Bank etc.

This was just a sample calculation. However the actual calculations will depend on the methodology selected. The existing Approved Methodologies do not provide for a step before the actual start of the process of planting. However, the least amount disturbance to Pre-project activity is preferred in all cases. Vetiver, if preceding the actual Planting would involve minimal disturbance to the pre-project Activity.

Some Existing Approved Methodolgies (Source: UNFCCC)


AR projects only took off in the last couple of years. Looking at the unique quality of Vetiver of surviving on degraded soils, coupled with its property of being shaded out, after the local species have taken over; it seems to be a good candidate for initiating these tricky projects.

The above methodologies can be a basis of developing a methodology that includes Vetiver as the initiator. Without such initiated some lands will never improve. It is for all of us in the Vetiver Network to take this forward.



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