Niti Central | 06 February 2016
India has 30% of the world’s bamboo resources, but it constitutes only 4% of the global market.
At a time when we are pushing entrepreneurship and talking about a self-sufficient India with the flagship programmes like Startup India Standup India, Make In India, Ease of doing business, it is important to note how regulatory restrictions have hurt us in the past and they continue to do so in many sectors.
With 90 Lakh Hectare of Bamboo forests, India captures only about 4.5 per cent of the world market of Bamboo. While China with just 40 Lakh Hectare of Bamboo forests holds about 50 per cent of the world market.
And, we are talking about a global trade which today reportedly stands at USD 60 Billion. Of this, we could have had a major share but as we know it’s not lack of opportunities or resources which puts us in the list of third world countries, it’s sheer lack of political will.
Why we lag behind
Our old law ‘Indian Forest Act (1927)’ classified Bamboo as ‘Tree’ and fallen bamboo as ‘Timber’, contrary to the scientific classification of bamboo as ‘Grass’. Hence, many regulatory restrictions applied to Bamboo in cutting and transportation. Had it been considered ‘Grass’ as it is, it would have been exempted from many such restrictions.
Although we have ‘Forest Rights Act (2006)’ which classifies Bamboo as non-timber, Indian Forest Act (1927) still exists. Hence, there is confusion (deliberate or not) in implementation. Even Supreme Court, in 1996, held that bamboo was not a tree, and felled bamboo was not to be considered as timber.
However, States have not aligned their legislations in line with the FRA 2006 and therefore the restrictions imposed on timber are largely still applicable to Bamboo too.
FRA 2006 also imposes restrictions – It vests the right of ownership and the right to collect, use and dispose of bamboo in Tribals. Hence, the upstream producers and manufacturers of bamboo-based products continue to face transit pass requirements, which is another impediment in development of bamboo industry.
To do away with these regulatory troubles crippling our bamboo industry, policy think tank Centre for Civil Society had recently filed a public interest litigation in Supreme Court which was accepted by the court.
Why Bamboo’s demand is rising
It helps both economic development and environment protection – a sustainable development model which is much sought after these days.
It has over 1500 documented uses ranging from fuel wood and light bulb to even aircraft manufacturing. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. A pole of bamboo can fully regenerate to its full mass in just six months, while other commercially important species mature in 4-5 years. This ability of bamboo to grow fast makes it an attractive crop for farmers since it provides quick cash returns to them compared to traditional cash crops and timber-yielding trees.
It occupies 12.8 per cent of the total area under forests in India. It has short growth cycles and low water requirement. A grove of bamboo releases 35 per cent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees and absorbs four times as much carbon.
How the regulatory restrictions hurt us
India’s current demand for bamboo is estimated at 27 million tons per year. Even though we have 30 per cent of the world’s bamboo resources, only 50 per cent of that demand is met domestically. Rest is imported from China and other South-East Asian countries.
50 per cent of our tribal population depends on bamboo like non-timber forest produce for their livelihood. Currently, Bamboo sector has employed only 10 million people, much shorter than the potential that this sector has in our country – 50-129 million.
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