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Mar 04, 2004
Bamboo futures

India recently set up a National Mission on Bamboo Technology at an outlay of Rs 2,600 crores in acknowledgement of bamboo’s potential to broad-spread prosperity. India’s 7 north-eastern states’ relative isolation and non-industrialised condition, make them ideal for spear heading a bamboo centred economy.

India is second only to China in the 136 genetic varieties of bamboo [’dendrocalamus’] it has, spread throughout the land. India also has 130 million tonnes of standing crop. It is expert’s opinion that China’s bamboo craftsmen, fine though they are, have become rather set in their ways, whereas India’s, are more versatile and innovative. And yet China’s bamboo economy is Rs 26,000 crores and India’s is a puny Rs 2,000 crores.

Why? There are three reasons. One, China has for long had a focused programme to develop its bamboo economy. In fact the International Network of Bamboo and Rattan [INBR website], created jointly by 27 countries, is head-quartered in Beijing. Another reason is that bamboo is a tragically poetic plant: it dies as soon as it flowers, and whole tracts die en masse, as is happening now in the NE states. But INBR’s Ian Hunter says this can be managed well, using China’s experience. The final reason is that India’s bamboo stands are in notified forests and laws prohibit their felling and transport. There are moves now to de-link bamboo from other forest produce.

The Technology Mission is mandated to address all these problems. It will spend Rs 2,000 crores to develop two million hectares of new bamboo plantations, Rs 275 crores to train and enhance craftsmen’s skills, Rs 139 crores to develop products, processes and standards and Rs 129 crores to develop markets. By 2007, India’s bamboo economy is expected to touch Rs 16,000 crores and Rs 26,000 crores by 2015.

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