A leg-up for bamboo at 2022 FIFA World Cup

It’s World Bamboo Day on September 18. This fast-growing plant is a sustainable construction material, says Sanjeev Karpe whose Qatar project is nearing completion

September 16, 2022 05:47 pm | Updated September 17, 2022 12:02 pm IST

Welcome Lounge at Nandi Hills, Bengaluru

Welcome Lounge at Nandi Hills, Bengaluru

As the 2022 FIFA World Cup draws near (November 20) bamboo specialist Sanjeev Karpe is a man in a hurry. His organisation, KONBAC (Konkan Bamboo & Cane Development) is working in full swing to complete the 34,500 sq.ft. false ceiling of the building that will house the players. “It’s a big thing for bamboo,” says Sanjeev who has been in the field of popularising the humble woody grass for the past 18 years. Sanjeev works with almost 10,000 farmers in the Singur district of Maharashtra and is currently working with the farmers of Marathwada.

“It is high time the material is seen not as a poor man’s alternative but a rich man’s privilege. A culture of bamboo should be created. It should be used in a range so that it gets an image makeover,” he adds.

On World Bamboo Day, September 18, KONBAC will hold a three-day workshop on the Jaipur Campus of Manipal University where architects will talk to students about its versatility and sustainable properties.

Large spaces

Earlier this year KONBAC’s construction arm — Jans Bamboo Product Private Limited — constructed a banquet hall to seat 500 for the Raja Rajeshwari Temple near Hubli in Karnataka. In 2021 it built a one lakh sq.ft. campus for the Forest Department at Chandrapur in Maharashtra and in 2018 a bamboo restaurant, featuring ‘floating dining pods’ for luxury brand Waldorf Astoria in the Maldives.

“For so many years we have called it an inferior raw material,” says Sanjeev pointing out that it was used only as a scaffold.

Bamboo Research and Training Centre, Chandrapur

Bamboo Research and Training Centre, Chandrapur

In a turnkey project, the structure in Qatar is being built on-site. “We are using the smallest diameter bamboo in the country for the ceilings as per the design,” says Sanjeev. According to him, China has made great strides in the use of bamboo for construction and 15 years ago it built an airport with the material, for Spain, in Madrid. Closer home what Sanjeev terms to be the “gamechanger” is the 12 lakhs 30,000 sq.ft. terminus of Bengaluru International Airport, to be ready in the next two years. The structure that’s under construction will have bamboo-clad columns and roofing, “almost 40% of the building will use bamboo. Designed by a U.S.-based architect, the size, design and scale will change the image of bamboo in our country,” says Sanjeev pointing at its versatility and use in a range of products like windmills, blades and bulletproof jackets as in China.

He also speaks of the high-end luxury brand Gucci’s promotion of bamboo in jewellery- earrings, bracelets, goggles and belts. “Their leather purse has a bamboo handle and they have chosen to call it a bamboo bag. They are giving importance to the material,” he says.

A new product with huge impact, being made by China, is the 30 ft. diameter pipe that can be used to transport water or fuel, says Sanjeev.

Sanjeev Karpe at a bamboo grove in Udipi. The species grown by farmers there is Dendrocalamus brandisii, locally called Barma

Sanjeev Karpe at a bamboo grove in Udipi. The species grown by farmers there is Dendrocalamus brandisii, locally called Barma

KONBAC encourages farmers to grow the  dendrocalamus stocksii, a graceful mid-sized non-thorny bamboo species mainly found in Central Western Ghats. A valuable multi-purpose species, it can be used as a substitute for cane and rattan in the bamboo-based furniture industry.

“Bamboo is fast growing and can be harvested in just four years. It multiplies on its own. Unlike mainstream materials, it is not carbon intensive. It absorbs carbon and emits oxygen,” says Sanjeev who advises farmers to use it as a multi-crop along with mango and cashew.

In Marathwada the farmers growing bamboo are using it in a bio mix for fuel, added to coal, for the thermal power plants in the region.

“To grow bamboo is the future,” Sanjeev says. He is pleased that things are changing drastically for the bamboo and that Indians are being proactive in welcoming the image makeover of bamboo.

Creating oxygen parlours

Members of Grassroute planting bamboo sapling in Kochi

Members of Grassroute planting bamboo sapling in Kochi

“In Kochi, we can create oxygen parlours by planting bamboo saplings. Bamboo is green gold,” says Kochi-based environmentalist I.B. Manoj of the fast-growing grass. On World Bamboo Day, September 18, he along with a handful of volunteers, mostly school students, will plant 25 bamboo saplings, on the premises of a private home, in Nayarambalam. Manoj has been creating saplings of the species Bambusa bambos and Dendrocalamus sikkimensis at his home in Vypeen.

“Bamboo grows faster than any plant on earth and produces 30 per cent more oxygen than an equal area of trees. It needs no fertilizers or pesticides. In four years, we will have a club and one can start harvesting from the fifth year,” says Manoj who co-founded an environment group, Grassroute in 2021. He also cleared the Bamboo Propagation (Green Skill Development) programme conducted by KFRI (Kerala Forest Research Institute). As part of Mathrubhumi SEED (Student Empowerment for Environmental Development)he will also plant saplings on September 17 with students from different city schools at the arboretum on the banks of the Periyar.

 Bamboo warrior, I.B. Manoj, co-founder Grassroute

Bamboo warrior, I.B. Manoj, co-founder Grassroute

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