Restoring Degraded Mines with Bamboo
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Today, nearly a third of the earth’s land is degraded, presenting a serious environmental issue worldwide. Mining activities have long contributed to this phenomenon, due to their adverse effects on soil quality, biodiversity and deforestation - making the restoration of degraded mines an increasingly important task. So where does bamboo fit into this? Read on to find out more!
How bamboo helps restore land
Growing abundantly in tropical and subtropical countries, bamboo’s many properties give it an important role in restoring degraded land. Its extensive root system makes it the ideal species for soil erosion control, allowing it to control floods and reduce erosion by binding the gravel and soil on the land. Bamboo’s root system makes it tough and resilient, capable of growing in very poor soils and surviving even the most adverse weather conditions.
As one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, it can also be harvested every three to five years, giving it great potential to restore productivity to even the most devastated of lands in a very short timeframe. Its potential to rapidly restore degraded soil has increasingly encouraged countries across the world to introduce it in their land restoration projects. According to the State Minister for Agriculture in Ethiopia, “bamboo is considered the most important, fast-growing, strategic intervention for afforestation and reforestation in the mountainous and degraded areas in the country.”
Restoring degraded mines with bamboo
Bamboo farming has been used by a number of countries to hasten the restoration of areas laid waste by mining activities. As stated by the Philippines' Trade and Industry, Secretary Ramon Lopez, bamboo “grows fast, has a strong capability of absorbing carbon, is effective to prevent soil erosion and more importantly has the ability to make the mined areas restore its condition for agriculture purposes”.
In India, bamboo has been part of pioneering landscape restoration work for over 20 years in villages devastated by brick mining. By helping to raise the water table, increase the carbon content of the soil, and return micronutrients to the soil, bamboo has since brought over 85,000 hectares back into productivity and was also reported to provide around 10% of the total annual incomes of the farmers.
In Ghana, meanwhile, illegal mining activities have been identified as the cause of numerous environmental problems, including water pollution, deforestation, poor soil fertility and the severe degradation of land - with up to 3,000 ha being degraded annually and forest resources being placed under the risk of species extinction. Restoration of mined areas has thus been a necessary process to make sure that disturbed lands can return to suitable environmental conditions. Bamboo plantations have since formed part of the land restoration projects in the area, with some species of the plant wielding tremendous results - serving as further confirmation of bamboo’s potential in reclaiming mined-out land across the world!