The Chhattisgarh forest department has decided to conserve bamboo forests. It has asserted that an emphasis should be given to increase productivity.
The state forest department has identified one lakh hectare of forest area for restoration and rehabilitation across the state and this is aimed to be achieved in a period of five years (2021-22 to 2025-26).
Year-wise 20,000 ha of land will be taken up to work on and would depend upon the availability and suitability of land.
Bamboo remains a significant means of livelihood for people who still depend on the handicraft industry by making bamboo products like baskets.
Moreover, villagers also use it to construct fences across their homes or to make pickles and other edible items out of it.
Out of the total forest area of 44 per cent in Chhattisgarh, around 17 per cent accounts for the bamboo plantation.
According to the survey in 2018, Chhattisgarh had more than 59 lakh hectares of recorded forest area out of which 11 lakh hectares is covered by the bamboo plantation.
However, the production of these bamboo plantations has reached a hard hit because of many factors like illegal harvesting, soil moisture loss, forest fires, lack of protection and illegal grazing.
Deepak Dewangan of the Kondagaon district of Chhattisgarh is one of the craftsmen of handicraft products of bamboo who has been involved in this business for ages.
But bamboo takes time to give yields as harvesting starts from the fifth year. Moreover, it is not available in every village in the district.
These days, it is becoming difficult to procure bamboo through the forest department as well. Besides, the department has mostly thin bamboo and I need thicker ones for my work; at times bamboo is simply not available at all, and even if available, it finishes fast.”
Dewangan also added, “Prices of bamboo logs have increased. This means artisans like me are at risk. Increased rates will also affect villagers who use bamboo for other purposes.”
To help the forest department, former Indian forest service officer B.P Nanhore has lent a helping hand, he had prepared a detailed report with the help of field officers and divisional forest officers.
He stated, “we collected data from the field and concluded how much bamboo has been degraded in the past 40 years (1982 to 2020) based on work plans. Bamboo has a life span of 40 years. After that, the plants die and new ones regenerate in the forest.”
The selection of the areas has been done by keeping the diversity of the land in the mind. For instance, there are areas where bamboo was found 40 years ago and not found anymore plus there are degraded areas where the plantation drive would take some more time than usual.
In such areas basically, the clumps are often found damaged, cut, broken and burnt, thus being unfit for commercial exploitation. Hence, first efforts need to be made to conserve the soil moisture.
Entrepreneur Dave Mukherjee from the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh is really invested in one particular species of bamboo called Bambusa bambos which according to him has the highest density in the whole world and hence also supporting this regeneration drive.
He stated, “Though bamboo is a grass, it is propagated from seeds. After the creation of bamboo seedlings, farmers are given these for use in an agroforestry model where other crops like wheat, cotton and soybean are also grown along with bamboo.
I enter into an agreement with farmers for 40 years and buy back the produce from them. There are about 10,500 farmers across Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.”
Bamboo is significant and needs to be conserved because bamboo forests are cooler and stand arrest soil erosion and also helps in raising the water table says Bharathi Nambi of Growmore Biotech company.
With the hopes up for this regeneration drive, Divisional Forest Officer, Dhammshil Ganvir said that work will pick up from July and it’s only a way forward from there.