Bamboo not a ‘tree’ any more

Context:

In a landmark initiative, Centre has promulgated the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling/transit permit for its economic use.

Introduction:

  • After President Ramnath Kovind signed an ordinance amending the Forest Act, the Bamboo has ceased to be a tree anymore.
  • For 90 years Bamboo-taxonomically a grass-was registered as a tree in the Forest Act, but he recent amendment has axed bamboo from a list of plants that also included palms, skumps, brush-wood and canes.
  • 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.
  • Before the ordinance was issued, the definition of tree in the law included palm, bamboo, brushwood and cane.

Objectives of decision:

  • The ordinance, aimed at increasing bamboo plantation, states that clause seven in Section 2 of the act would omit the word bamboo.
  • The amendment will help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from domestic production.
  • Before this amendment, cutting and transport of bamboo grown in forest as well as non-forest land was illegal.
  • The Centre said it hopes to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to help raise the income of farmers and increase the green cover.
  • This was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land. The move will contribute to achieving the objective of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • Conservation and Sustainable development.
  • Enhance supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India.
  • An enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country. 
  • The amendment will unleash the potential of bamboo in terms of rural and national economy.
  • To promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas
  • The amendment 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 agro forestry mission.

Expected benefits the amendment:

Some of the other benefits of amendment include:

  • Enhancing supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India, bamboo based or paper and pulp industries, cottage industries, furniture making units, fabric making units, incense stick making units.
  • Promoting major bamboo applications such as wood substitutes and composites like panels, flooring, furniture and bamboo blind.
  • It shall also help industries such as those dealing with food products (bamboo shoots), constructions and housing, bamboo charcoal etc.
  • The amendment will greatly aid the success of recently constituted National Bamboo Mission.
  • The amendment will unleash the potential of bamboo in terms of rural and national economy apart from ecological benefits such as soil-moisture conservation, landslide prevention and rehabilitation, conserving wildlife habitat, enhancing source of bio-mass, besides serving as a substitute for timber.
  • An enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country.
  • The amendment will therefore, help in harnessing this great potential and enhance the scope to increase the present level of market share and improve the economy of the entire country, particularly the North Eastern region.
  • encourage growth of small and medium industries in the villages and smaller towns also, and reduce our dependence on imports

Need of enhancing Bamboo sector:

  • 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.
  • Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes and about 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities.
  • The amendment will help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from domestic production.
  • As per the assessment of United Nation’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the bamboo business in the North-East Region alone has a potential of about Rs. 5000 crores in the next ten years.
  • India has the largest area under bamboo cultivation and is the second richest in terms of bamboo genetic resources after China.

Challenges faced by global bamboo market:

  • India’s massive potential was not utilised all these years to increase the country’s share in the global bamboo market.
  • Restrictive regulatory regime
  • Requirement of permission for felling
  • Transit and processing
  • Export restrictions
  • Royalty and transit fee on the products
  • As a result, India is currently importing timber and allied products such as pulp, paper and furniture, etc.

Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017:

The government, in a landmark initiative, has promulgated the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling or transit permit for its economic use.

Indian Forest Act, 1927:

  • It is an act to consolidate the law relating to forest, the transit of forest-produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest-produce.
  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British.
  • The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
  • It sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of  forest produce, and duty leviable on  timber and other forest produce.
  • It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
  • It defines what is a forest offence, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.

Reserved Forest:

  • Reserved Forest is an area mass of land duly notified under the provisions of Indian Forest Act or the State Forest Acts having full degree of protection.
  • In Reserved Forests all activities are prohibited unless permitted.
  • Reserved Forest is notified under section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

National Bamboo Mission:

The National Bamboo Mission was launched in 2006-07 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to promote the growth of bamboo sector. The programmes address four major areas of bamboo development as follows:

  • Research and Development
  • Plantation Development
  • Handicrafts Development
  • Marketing

Key Elements of the National Bamboo Mission:

  • Research and Development for sustainable development and new Bamboo Agri-forestry technique for technology generation
  • Establishment of new Nurseries to raise bamboo seedlings
  • Raising high yielding bamboo plantations on commercial basis in Forest as well as Non-Forest areas
  • Rejuvenation of senile bamboo plantations
  • Pest and Disease Management of bamboo.
  • Handicrafts, bamboo marketing and exports
  • Capacity building and Human Resource Development of farmers, field functionaries and others
  • New Marketing Strategy for Bamboo and establishment of Bamboo Markets, Bamboo bazaar and retail outlets
  • Meticulous monitoring, evaluation and reporting, Database generation, compilation and analysis

Conclusion:

The amendment and the resultant change in classification of bamboo grown in non-forest areas will usher in much needed and far-reaching reforms in the bamboo sector.

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