New Delhi: The Union 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/transit permit for its economic use. Bamboo, though, taxonomically a grass, was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
Before this amendment, the felling and transit of bamboo grown on forest as well non-forest land attracted the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA, 1927). This was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.
Earlier, the Union Cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had yesterday approved the promulgation of the Ordinance on amendment of Section 2 (7) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 in this regard.
Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr Harsh Vardhan emphasised that a major objective of the amendment is to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve twin objectives of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country. He also stated that bamboo grown in the forest areas shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
The Minister underlined that 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. He said that while on the one hand, the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed and on the other hand, it will create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land. The measure will go a long way in enhancing the agricultural income of farmers and tribals, especially in North-East and Central India. 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 agroforestry mission. The move is in line with the objective of doubling the income of farmers, besides conservation and sustainable development.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said that some of the other benefits of amendment include enhancing supply of raw material to the traditional craftsmen of rural India, bamboo based/ paper & pulp industries, cottage industries, furniture making units, fabric making units, incense stick making units. Besides promoting major bamboo applications such as wood substitutes and composites like panels, flooring, furniture and bamboo blind, it will 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.
Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes. About 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities. One tonne of bamboo provides 350 man days of employment.
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 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.
The current demand of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tonnes. Though India has 19% share of world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6%. At present, India imports timber and allied products, such as pulp, paper, furniture etc. In 2015, India imported about 18.01 million cubic meters of timber and allied products worth Rs 43000 crores. 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. “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”, Dr Harsh Vardhan said.