A cost-effective technology in the form of a soda-mattress [also known as a fascine, or fascine mattress] made of locally-available brushwood and other materials using locally available materials (tree branches and stones) and manpower provides a sustainable way of stemming riverbank erosion on the Mekong River in Laos.
The pilot project for this solution to riverbank erosion saw its first test run in 2004.
A fascine is a rough bundle of brushwood used for strengthening an earthen structure, or making a path across uneven or wet terrain which is also used for covering marshy ground.
The soda-mattress system was developed in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century and is particularly useful for Laos’ sandy riverbeds. It can be combined with cobble stone and the soda mattress itself can last for 10 years.
These local materials are also cheaper costing US$1,300 per square metre compared to US$2000 per metre if conventional materials are used, thus saving $700 per square metre.
Stopping riverbank erosion is extremely important because about 90 percent of Laos’s territory forms part of the Mekong river basin and waters can rise to up to 10 metres above the lowest water levels. Many who live in such areas are impoverished.
According to the director of Laos’s Department of Roads, the government of Laos had only $100,000 a year to spend on riverbank protection measures. Such more affordable measures therefore can save the government substantial money for future projects.
Irin Humanitarian news and analysis UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "LAOS: Using brushwood to prevent riverbank erosion" dated 19 March 2009 in the Irin website [downloaded on 28 March 2009], available at http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=83540
Reuters, "LAOS: Using brushwood to prevent riverbank erosion" dated 19 Mar 2009 in the Reuters alernet website [downloaded on 29 March 2009], available athttp://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/bc2c214088e750e66e15a37fba....