Bamboo Industry is an integral part of our life and culture, as it is used in religious ceremonies, art, and music. Thus it is a mystical plant that engulfs our daily lives. For tribal and forest dwellers “bamboo for living and living with bamboo” is still the norm. This offers an excellent starting point for increasing employment, income generation, and improving the nutritional status of the rural poor.
Since bamboo can provide the basis for an expanding small and medium enterprise sector, it offers an effective mechanism for rural poverty alleviation and livelihood securities. Bamboo is a versatile crop and has recorded 1500 uses including food, wood substitute, building and construction material, as a resource of handicrafts, pulp, paper, etc.
Bamboo Industry in India
Around 80% of bamboo forests lie in Asia with India, China, and Myanmar having 19.8 million hectares of bamboo. India has one of the richest bamboo resources in the world, second only to China in bamboo production. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Government of India, the annual bamboo production in the country is estimated at 3.23 million tonnes.
Though India is the world’s second-largest grower of bamboo with 136 species, 23 genera, covering a 13.96 mill ha area, the country’s share in the global Bamboo Industry trade and commerce is only 4%. Its potential for expanding the area under bamboo cultivation is immense.
According to the Forest Survey of India (2011), more than 50% of bamboo species are found in eastern India, including in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, and West Bengal. Bamboo utensils, fishing nets, jars, vases, and baskets make it a quintessential cultural tradition in the region. Mizoram has the largest bamboo cover in India as compared to the geographical area covered by other states; more than half of Mizoram’s land has bamboo forests.
Bamboo Industry – The Scenario
Bamboo is an integral part of our life and culture, as it is used in religious ceremonies, art and music. Thus it is a mystical plant that engulfs our daily lives. For tribal and forest dwellers “bamboo for living and living with bamboo” is still the norm. This offers an excellent starting point for increasing employment, income generation, and improving the nutritional status of the rural poor.
Since bamboo can provide the basis for an expanding small and medium enterprise sector, it offers an effective mechanism for rural poverty alleviation and livelihood securities. A bamboo tree matures in 4 to 5 years whereas a hardwood tree takes almost 60 years to mature Unlike hardwood trees, bamboo can be harvested without adverse effects on the environment.
Bamboo can tolerate both heavy and low rainfall. Every year it gives out 8-10 shoots. Bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than other plants and absorbs 20% carbon dioxide from the environment. Scientific plantation of bamboo could dramatically improve air quality with the release of more oxygen and sequestering of more carbon dioxide.
With the rapid socio-economic transformation of our country, bamboo gained importance as a raw material not only for the cottage industry but also for large-scale industry. Around 25000 bamboo-based industries provide employment to about 20 million people while 2 million people work on bamboo-based crafts. With attractive physical and strength properties, bamboo has great potential as a construction and structural material.
The pulp and paper industry and the bamboo craft sector are the two major users of bamboo resources. The consumption of bamboo in different sectors in the country indicates that 24% of bamboo is being utilized in scaffolding, 20% for pulp and paper, 19% for handicrafts, and 15% for miscellaneous items.
However, its industrial potential in the manufacture of a host of value-added products eg laminated brand, bamboo fiber cement board, flooring, wood substitutes, medicines, food products, etc., provide opportunities for employment and income generation and at the same time ensures efficient and sustained utilization of available resources. Bamboo-based technology has attracted the attention of a number of entrepreneurs and a few industries have already been set up in the country.
Plan for Prosperity in Bamboo Industry
Bamboo Industry is amenable to multiple uses and is therefore well suited to value additional activities, generating thereby a number of employments in the rural sector. Bamboo plays a vital role in rural employment, every hectare of bamboo plantation generates about 160 workdays. An average of 8-10 workdays is needed to harvest one ton of bamboo. Five workdays per tonne are generated by the transportation and handling of bamboo.
As many as 80 workdays are required for the processing of one ton of bamboo and its weaving into usable products. In the cottage industry, about 600 workdays are required per ton of bamboo processing. Based on the studies, the summary of the employment potential of the bamboo economy (below) indicates that bamboo can generate 516.33 million mandays of work per annum.
Recognizing the potential of Bamboo Industry and the fact that it has been subjected to neglect and thus remains disorganized with poor market linkages and sub-optimal level technology applications for the manufacture of value-added products in the industrial and artisanal sector. The National Mission on Bamboo Technology & Trade Development, 2003 Report has highlighted the need to upgrade the bamboo economy by according bamboo development a strategic role in rural economic development, poverty alleviation, and bamboo-based handicrafts and industrial development.
The potential of the Bamboo Industry as an economic resource capable of generating employment for the rural people in commercial plantation and other value-added activities has remained largely untapped due to a lack of appropriate policy, institutional framework covering plantations, technology upgradation, and product and market level. Bamboo has thus tremendous untapped potential in our country for transforming the rural economy.
There is vast scope for expanding bamboo in the areas outside the forest because: a) its management is easier in these lands than in natural forests and b) due to being close to user agencies, economic harvesting is possible. Land degradation is a major problem confronting India According to the State of India’s Environment 2017, nearly 30 percent of India’s land is degraded. With its unique ability to stitch and repair damaged soils, bamboo is ideal for rehabilitating degraded soil.
National Bamboo Mission (NBM) which was commenced in October 2006 is an initiative of the Government of India (GOI) to provide a new impetus and direction to enable the realization of bamboo’s considerable potential. It is multidisciplinary and multidimensional in its approach.
The major interventions planned to achieve its broad objectives focus on R&D, and plantation of forest and non-forest lands. It is ensuring the supply of quality planting materials by establishing centralized and Kisan/Mahila nurseries, promoting bamboo handicrafts, marketing, exporting and establishing bamboo wholesale & retail markets.
NBM was started as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 2006-07. Since 2006-07, 3,61,791 hactare of land has been covered with a bamboo plantation, out of which 2,36,700 ha is under forest area and 1,25,091 ha under non-forest area. An area of 91,715 ha of existing bamboo plantation has been improved for higher productivity. Around 1,466 nurseries have been established to supply quality planting material. In different states, 61,126 farmers and 12,710 field functionaries have been trained in the area of nursery management and bamboo plantation.
In addition, 39 Bamboo wholesale & retail markets near villages, 29 Retail Outlets, and 40 Bamboo bazaars have been established. However, under NBM, during the period 2006-17, the new area covered through plantation is around 3.62 lakh ha (including 1.25 lakh ha in non-forest areas) whereas one of the objectives of the Mission among others was to expand the area under bamboo plantation by 2 million ha in the Tenth Plan and overall 6 million ha in the Tenth and Eleventh Plan.
It is noted that achievement in the non-forest area has been much lower than its potential. The Indian Forest Act, of 1927 defines bamboo as a tree – a contradiction in the law that has deterred the growth of bamboo plantations, particularly in non-forest areas. Bamboo grown outside forests was subjected to regulatory rules of felling and transportation till the end of 2017.
It was perceived that the emphasis of NBM has, by and large, been on the propagation and cultivation of bamboo, with limited efforts on processing, product development, and value addition. This has caused a weak linkage between the farmers and the industry. There is a need to develop an integrated bamboo industry in the country.
A restructured NBM has been approved by the Government of India in April 2018 with an investment of Rs 1290 cr in the coming 2 years. It focuses on the development of a complete value chain of the bamboo sector to link growers with consumers and to support the development of the entire value chain starting from planting material, plantation, creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing marketing, micro, small & medium enterprises, skill development, and brand building initiative in a cluster approach mode. This will contribute to the doubling of farmers’ income and also generate more employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers especially youths in rural areas.
To facilitate the benefits flow to the farmers, bamboo stock outside forest areas has been excluded from the definition. Besides, a scheme called SFURTI (Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) is being implemented by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium (MSME) in order to boost traditional industries and bamboo artisans. A proper understanding of bamboo culture and technical support could unleash a bamboo revolution that has the capacity to uplift the bamboo industry.
New Initiatives in Bamboo Industry in India
- In order to boost bamboo cultivation on a commercial level, the Government of Himachal Pradesh (HP) will constitute a State Level Bamboo Development Agency (SLBDA) along with setting up bamboo economic zones as per industry requirements. Many areas in the lower parts of HP have immense potential for growing bamboo which is in great demand by industries. As such, the setting up of a board would help farmers to take to bamboo cultivation, specifically in view of the heavy demand from industries.
- The Government of Telangana has decided in June 2018 to launch a massive bamboo plantations project on 506 hectares (1,250 acres) to provide a source of sustainable income to farmers.
- Maharashtra State is quite keen on promoting bamboo as a source of income for farmers. In August 2018 it created the Maharashtra Bamboo Development Board (MBDB) for this purpose. It ensures that village communities have total control over the sale of bamboo and not the Forest Department. It even set up a bamboo research center funded by the Tata Group.
- Japanese Government may extend help to Mizoram in the development of its bamboo industry and road construction projects. Along with this, it may help in alleviating the impact of natural disasters in the area. The push will be towards setting up an industry for the value added to the state’s bamboo resources. It lacks a major industry that could harness the potential of its resources.
- TRIFED, an apex body, under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Government of India would open establishments to train tribal people in using bamboo optimally with zero waste and make agarbatti, matchboxes, and even textiles. This would help in augmenting tribals’ income and open markets.
The Way Forward – Bamboo Industry in India
To arrest the pace of land degradation in the country, a national program of intensive bamboo plantation involving all stakeholders needs to be undertaken beyond 2019-20. Following the footsteps of China, the Indian Government needs to support rural farmers to establish bamboo plantations in barren lands and slopes. The national housing scheme (PMAY) should utilize bamboo as construction material.
Developing bamboo as a load-bearing structural element would pave the way for its high-value application in construction which can make bamboo cultivation an economically viable way of greening vast wastelands (Smita Chugh, Bamboo-A Green Option for Housing). Edible bamboo has huge demand in East Asian cuisines and medicine.
Bamboo grown in the North East (which is 66% of the growing bamboo stock in India) can be exported to East Asian countries like Japan and Taiwan for competitive prices with the Government’s support. There is a big market in the agarbatti industry. India imports 35,000 tonnes of round sticks from Vietnam and China.
Earlier, square ones were hand-made from bamboo, in the North East. But when the technology changed and machines took over, round sticks were preferred. India produces 3,000 tonnes of them. The entire activity can be indigenized by local cultivation of bamboo of a particular variety required by the industry. It is observed that illegal bamboo export to Bangladesh and Myanmar accounts for 13% of usage. As mentioned before that the country imports sizeable bamboo stocks due to shortage, and there is an urgent.