Uttarakhand, the land of temples, abode of Lord Shiva and Guru Gobind Singh alike, is now all set to pioneer bamboo agroforestry, due to its unique geographical location, stretches of well drained alluvial soil in the Terai belt and abundance of water- both, ground and rain.

The recently revised bamboo policy, with its de-classification as a timber (erstwhile) to its correct botanical classification of a"Grass", offers a window of opportunity for bamboo based enterprise. Government is thus focusing on developing bamboo based industry clusters, in areas endemic to bamboo, where, Uttarakhand fits the bill very well.

The task may seem Herculean, but it is surely possible to create Bamboo Based Clusters of Industry in the state of Uttarakhand, and to my mind we will need to focus on the following areas.

  • We will first need to set up a pilot unit( s )-  ( both, for agro-forestry as well as value addition endeavors )-Under the helmsman-ship of Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, with regional centers at various state agricultural universities, including GBPUAT- so that farmers get acquainted with bamboo as a crop. Some farmers, who pioneered undertaking bamboo agroforestry earlier, did not have a pleasant experience because of lack of proper markets at that point of time, when bamboo was still a regulated commodity. In light of the de-regulation, and prospects of bamboo industry coming up- we would have to do the confidence building exercise- where FRI, GBPUAT and other Universities/Institutions will need to show the way and bear the Olympian torch- for both aspects of Industry development- agriculture/agro-forestry (the source of raw material) and value-addition (product development and marketing). FRI, GBPUAT and other Universities, will perhaps, need to liaise with lead institutions like NID, IPRITI etc. to evolve suitable products and suitable markets. A collective effort is imminent to make this Bamboo Mission a reality.

Collectively,

  • We will need to research bamboo utilization in paper industry, and work on developing linkages between farmers and the paper units ( for example Century in Lal Kuan). I believe, bamboo requires a different production line, so Century will only do so, if it is assured of sustainable supply of bamboo . Maybe, a buy-back rate could also be fixed to build up confidence of the farmers.
  • We will need to develop nurseries of elite plant material to cater to the requirement of extension. The endemic bamboo species, which grow well in Uttarakhand are Dendrocalamus Strictus, B. Balcooa, B. Nutaans, Bambos and  Hamiltonii ( mid altitude). Oliverii  and D. Stocksii were recently introduced and have been found to be performing well. The forest areas have primarily Strictus. For enterprise based cultivation and extension excellent clones have been developed by FRI and GBPUAT, amongst other regional Institutes. Farmers/growers must try to procure these elite clones- namely, Balcooa, Nutaans, Oliverii and Stocksii for the plains and Hamiltonii for the hills. Each of the above elite clones has specific applications, so a judicious selection needs to be done, for choice of planting material.
  • Nurseries should be preferably vegetative- because survival rate of rhizomes is lot better than cuttings, or TC. We will need to develop local nurseries- to minimize transport and incidental damage-for the plant requirements of projected plantation program in the vicinity. Getting Plants from a distance is a messy and cost intensive affair, not to mention the transit damage, and the issue of acclimatization
  • Planting Schedules will need to be optimized- and Nursery production geared up to provide plants at the RIGHT TIME. There is no point having the plants in July-- because the best time to plant is Feb !!!!! . However, where water is a scarcity, or planting is to be undertaken in rain-fed area, the next best option is, indeed Pre-Monsoonal- but again, the choice of planting stock should be non other than RHIZOMES- because they have a higher chance of survival.
  • There are pockets of Bengali and Bihari immigrants /migrants in Uttarakhand, where weaving clusters could be developed. The native art of weaving existed, but died a natural death because of paucity of bamboo, due to forest restrictions. In light of the revision of Bamboo Policy, there is every likelihood of bamboo being available. We will probably need to establish weavers clusters and nurture them, till they can sustain themselves.
  • Construction industry- Fully solid or thick walled species have a great utilization in the construction industry- may it be the scaffolding, or cheap housing.
  • Hand Made Paper could also be made.
  • Furniture- Industry- requires specialty bamboo- and Uttarakhand could follow suit.
  • Logistics-paperwork for Inter-state movement of bamboo- There is still a lot of confusion amongst farmers, with regards to inter-state transportation of bamboo. Though, its been reiterated , post de-regulation, that the "permit-regime" has been archived, but there are still loop-holes, probably because of lack of understanding of the ordinance, or else, lack of will for proper implementation.
  • Farmers undertaking bamboo as a crop- would need to have it duly registered in their land records (khasra). This document is said to be a valid proof of origin of bamboo on private land.
  • To encourage extension and emergence of bamboo based enterprise, the Government could relax the Land Ceiling Slabs for bamboo agroforestry. It could be on the lines of the Tea Industry- where land is attached to the production Unit, and the ceiling is lifted. Its classified as an Industry. A similar scheme could be devised to encourage bamboo entrepreneurship.  
  • Energy- I have been following this topic but I gather bamboo based ethanol or bamboo based briquettes are not economical, as compared to other sources of fuel. Hopefully I am wrong. !!!!!