[op-ed snap] Bamboo shoots

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Positive affects of changing the colonial era definition of Bamboo


Bamboo: Grass from Tree

  1. Recently, the Lok Sabha amended Section 2(7) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which had led to bamboo being seen as timber
  2. Earlier, a law dating back to the colonial era classified the plant as a tree

What is its significance?

  1.  The significance of this amendment is not merely academic
  2. Classifying bamboo as a grass will remove the forest department’s hold over the natural resource and open up a range of economic possibilities, including reducing dependence on bamboo imports

How was the colonial-era definition affecting India?

  1. Bamboo was slotted as a “forest produce” and placed in the same category as palm and other trees
  2. After Independence, generations of foresters interpreted this provision to imply that bamboo being a tree was under the control of the forest department
  3. The woody plant would find its way to markets largely through auctions held by the department
  4. This monopoly has come in the way of India becoming a major player in the 60 billion dollar global bamboo market. India has 30 per cent of the world’s bamboo resources, but still imports the plan

Huge demand and supply gap

  1. According to a CII-India Development Foundation paper, “Industrialisation of the bamboo sector in India”, at 13 million tonnes (mt) a year, India has nearly 14 million hectares of bamboo forests, but the country’s share of the bamboo market is a measly 4.5 per cent
  2. the country’s bamboo production is far short of the annual demand of 27 mt.

SC decision on Bamboo

  1. In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that “felled bamboo” was not timber
  2. And, the Forests Rights Act (FRA), 2006, classified bamboo as a “non-timber forest produce”
  3. But both the apex court and the FRA stopped short of aligning bamboo with its taxonomic classification

The way forward

  1. Removing the colonial-era law could enable linking the bamboo sector with government initiatives such as Make in India
  2. It will need some hand-holding like subsidies and bank loans schemes, though
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