Bamboo ceases to be a tree, freed of Forest Act

November 23, 2017 09:15 pm | Updated 09:15 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Bamboo shoots that are found only in the forest areas once the monsoon starts are now a common sight in the vegetable markets.

Bamboo shoots that are found only in the forest areas once the monsoon starts are now a common sight in the vegetable markets.

After 90 years, the bamboo has legally ceased to be a tree with the government, on Thursday, amending the Indian Forest Act and axing the bamboo — taxonomically a grass — from a list of plants that also included palms, skumps, brush-wood and canes. In doing so, said Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the government hoped to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve the “twin objectives” of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country. Bamboo grown in the forest areas would continue to be governed by the provisions of the Indian Forest Act.

For several years now, the classification of the bamboo — with its multifarious uses as an edible item, furniture and construction — as a tree meant that it couldn’t be easily ferried across State borders. It also required permits from village councils and couldn’t be cultivated in non-forest areas.

“This will now create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land. It will encourage farmers and other individuals to take up plantation/block plantation of suitable bamboo species on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under the agro-forestry mission,” the Minister added in a press statement.

The current demand of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tonnes. Though the country has 19% share of the world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6%. At present, it imports timber and allied products, such as pulp, paper, and furniture. In 2015, it imported about 18.01 million cubic metres of timber and allied products worth ₹43,000 crore. The amendment will help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from domestic production, the press note added.

The amendment was cleared as an ordinance and is therefore yet to get parliamentary backing. However experts welcomed it saying that it removed ambiguity on the status of bamboo and also brought it in harmony with the related Forest Rights Act. “Tribals have a right to forest produce but its earlier classification posed problems,” said environmental lawyer, Ritwick Datta.

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