Commercial Prospects of Jute: In Conversation with Pradeep Chowdhury

Commercial Prospects of Jute: In Conversation with Pradeep Chowdhury

in Video
Published on: 11 September 2018

Avisek Dutta

Avisek Dutta, a Post Graduate in Management from IISWBM, ventured into documentary filmmaking in the year 2016. His first assignment was for the NGO Tagore Society of Rural Management for their Rangabelia Project. In 2018, he began working on a documentary for Nagorik Mancha, an NGO working in the field of labour rights for the last 30 years. His own production documentary AGAMANI, a film based on the lives of acid attack survivors, is due to be released at upcoming international film festivals.

Pradeep Chowdhury (Principal Technologist, Indian Jute Industries’ Research Association, currently posted at National Jute Board, Ministry of Textile, Govt. of India), talks about the commercial prospects of jute

Translated and edited transcript


Question: Jute as we know is an eco-friendly product. What is the civil and the mechanical prospect of jute…the commercial prospect I mean. If you can kindly tell us about it.


Pradeep Chowdhury: See, jute has many versatile uses. You may know that Jute Research Institute (Indian Jute Industries' Research Association) – IJIRA is a pioneer in R&D (Research and Development) on jute. They are doing extensive R&D for a long time since 1937. Whatever diversified products of jute that one may come across today – from shopping bags, window curtains to sofa upholstery, all were initially developed by IJIRA and later are used by mass.


In the recent past, 1985 onwards, IJIRA stressed on extensive research and development, and field applicable of it.  All over India till now there have been 270 cases where jute geo-textile was applied. One among these 270 areas is river erosion. There are so many rivers where erosion has engulfed many villages. In such case, jute geo-textile is designed by us in the line of synthetic geo-textile, jute mills manufacture it and then it is used for river bank protection. Irrigation department has already included this in their schedule. This is used massively. Many states have begun incorporating jute in this way, so are various countries all over the world. There is this realisation that jute is very eco-friendly and bio-degradable with no adverse effect on the environment. People have started to think and use jute as geo-textile instead of synthetic man-made materials.


In road construction you will be amazed to hear. See jute is eco-friendly the whole world knows it, so do you and I. At the primary stage of road construction, the initial experiments are done to test the load-bearing capacity of the soil. If it’s seen that the load-bearing capacity of that soil is quite low in the initial stage, jute geo-textile is needed at such instances. It’s needed because experiments proved that within 1 to 1.5yrs the load-bearing capacities of the soil increases three-fold. Three-fold increase!


The benefit we derive from this is that, you may have heard about the term ‘pavement-thickness’, that thickness has to be designed for that soil…say for that particular soil I have to design 400mm of total thickness. Now since I will be using jute geo-textile I will be able to complete within 300 mm of thickness. The benefit is that if we can decrease the thickness of the pavements then the cost of construction decreased too. Implementation was done under ‘Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yogana’ through which many new roads were constructed, and the performance is brilliant. The first work was done on 2001-02, after that many new ones were taken up and the result of the performance is always admirable.


Jute geo-textile has become very popular in the ‘Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yogana’ especially the rural roads constructed under the scheme. Other states also stated to adapt it prominently, such as Assam, Tripura, Karnataka, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh; many such states all over India. In the recent past, we participated in an international project through which a new design of fabric was developed that can be manufactured in any jute mill. For example, for the roads in Tripura, jute mills of Tripura manufactured that fabric. In Karnataka 23 roads are already constructed, 21-22 more are in the pipeline, they are to be constructed – for all of that jute mills of the neighbouring state of Karnataka such as the ones at Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, mostly jute mills of Andhra Pradesh as it’s closer to Karnataka, they have manufactured the fabric, we provided the technology for it.


In fact, National Jute Board which is under the Ministry of Textile, Govt. of India…IJIRA is the R&D body and National Jute Board is a promotional body of jute geo-textile and jute diversified products. We are the technology provider for the National Jute Board, it has been declared by the government. So, with the technology provided by us they are able to create and manufacture various jute products and they are very happy to witness one by one surge in various uses of jute.


Another interesting area is landslides which is prone all over the world in any vulnerable slope. Jute geo-textile is an exceptional product to prevent landslides. Of all the methodologies of preventing landslide such as coil, jute, synthetic and all other material available; jute is the best because you see jute can be draped upon undulated surfaces so the detached soil particles won’t be able to slip down the slope. Jute itself is a hydrophilic material, absorbs the moisture and keeps the soil in a very moist condition and doesn’t let the temperature become extreme, attenuating it. Thus, a congenial climate is created which is favourable for the growth of vegetation.


In the initial stage, jute is spread on the slope much like how a bedcover functions. This is called bio-engineering technique. Later the vegetation growth will take care of the process. Jute becomes biomass after degrading and decaying, adding nutrient to the soil and increasing fertility. So, it’s a 100 per cent advantage. The trade name of this practice is 'soil saver' though technically we call it 'open weave jute geo-textile' and it is observed with jute geo-textile all over the world. It is a well-accepted product all over the world. Government of India and Government of Bangladesh vastly export this to many developed countries.


You wanted to know about mine-spoil. Mine-spoil - particularly open-cast mines have a heap of mine-spoil - the equation property of these heaps are so bad that even the slightest of rain and storm can cause wind induced erosion and precipitation or rain induced erosion causing massive pollution and degrading the surrounding villages, impacting the environment very negatively. Our previous and ongoing experiments at the Northern Coalfield and the collieries of Andhra Pradesh resulted in recovering the whole area’s greenery within 6 to 7 months. Fully covered with green. Jute geo-textile plays a very important part in stabilizing these destabilized mines. Coal India prefer it mostly.


You were also asking if it has any application in the tea gardens. Absolutely. Tocklai Tea Research Association (TRA) and IJIRA Jute Research Institute worked together on a project of comparative studies to observe the mulching effect. Silsoe College in UK which is now Cranfield University, UK, also did a comparative study on jute, coil, straw, synthetic. They also showed that jute has some special qualities, as I said some intrinsic properties which has mulching effect, meaning it stops weeds from emerging and supresses weed growth. Thus, increasing growth and survival rate of tea plants in tea gardens. Another aspect is for soil conversation, similar function to the soil erosion control. Therefore, use of this natural product is in much vogue in foreign countries more than what we have in our country.


Jute agro-textile has another good use as a sampling bag. You may have seen the tree nurseries use plastic bags to grow the seedlings into samplings. They put some soil in the plastic bag and put the seedling into it to let it grow into a sampling. When it’s time to plant the sapling they tear off the plastic bag and plant it in the land. While tearing the plastic bag some roots also get torn harming the sapling and leading to a retarded growth or death of the sampling. The torn plastic bag pollutes the environment also. Whereas for the small jute bags used – called jute sampling bag, it’s very simple. One only need to plant the seedling into the bag and after 6months/8months/1yr/1.5yrs plant it in the ground. The sampling will grow with the jute bag being intact. After some time while the plant will keep growing, the jute bag will decay into manure, bio-mass. That is why the application of jute in such cases are extraordinary.


You will be very happy to know of another amazing news that in areas of extreme temperature in our country such as in Leh-Ladakh, our border force organisations have used jute geo-textile very successfully. Another interesting news is that in Rajasthan, near the desert near Jaisalmer, usually there is no growth of plant vegetation normally. It’s just sand and sand. Now to stabilise the sand dunes, it was decided to use a natural material. What could that be? They decided on jute geo-textile. Because they got to know that we have done extensive research on jute, just as you got to know. They came here and approached us. After our interaction, they decided to apply this technology in a small plot at the initial stage. Within 4-5months time, that place is full of greenery. In that desert of sand, that place is full of plants now. Forest department of Rajasthan Government thas decided to commercially use this technology in another new area of 3.2 km2. These are the encouraging factors for jute geo-textile and agro-textile.