Bamboo is one of the most important forest resources in Sikkim that are distributed widely throughout the State. It is usually found in the moist valleys, along the streams, low hill slopes of southern part, moist deciduous forests, wet temperate forests and sub-alpine coniferous forest of the state. Of the 30 bamboo species recorded from Sikkim, 27(90.00%) species under 6 genera are sympodial type and only three (10.00%) species under two genera are monopodial type. 21 bamboo species were found in tropical forests, 28 species in sub-tropical forests, 12 species in temperate forests, 6 species in sub-alpine forests and 3 species in alpine vegetation.
The main species found in the state is Dendrocalamus genera has the maximum number of species (8), followed by Bambusa and Sinarundinaria (6 each). Schizostachyum genera have 5 species, Phyllostachys has 2 and Arundinaria, Melocanna and Thamnocalamus has 1 species. Arundinaria and Sinarundinaria mainly covers the northern part of Sikkim and, Phyllostachys, Bambusa, Dendrocalamus which occurs over extensive area are found in lower hills forest. Cultivated bamboos are also found in the agricultural land areas, roadsides private and government Khasmal areas. . However extensive study is required to know emphatically about the bamboo diversity of the Himalayan state.
Bamboo is one of the most important forest resources and also forms an integral part in the lives of the people of Sikkim. It is used for various purposes and its versatility qualifies it to be a multiple-use alternative to timber and food for rural poor and for tribal in particular and is also equally important to Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), the state animal of Sikkim. It was found that almost all of the bamboos found in Sikkim are used for domestic and social uses. In the Himalayan state the culm of the bamboos are used for religious rituals like for hoisting prayer flags. They provide raw materials for scaffolding in building construction and in rural areas small dwelling huts are also constructed with bamboo. Bamboo is mainly used for house construction, scaffolding, ladders, mats, baskets, fencing, garden support, bridges in the rural areas , fodder, fishing rods, walking sticks, tool- handles, bows and arrows , pipes, toys, handicrafts and for making furniture etc and for several other articles of everyday use. The young tender shoots of several bamboos are eaten as delicious vegetables. These young shoots, locally known as “tusa” are much eaten and its pickle are made by the people of Sikkim. It is also used in making Lepcha traditional hat (Sumok thyaktuk), an oldest form of craft made by the Lepcha tribe in the state. Apart from these they are also used for making chungas to carry milk and water, walls floor and roofs, supports to creeper agricultural plants and as an ornamental plant.
Bamboo crafts are a flourishing craft in Sikkim and every street of Sikkim has workshops of bamboo crafts where marvelous bamboo crafts are produced by the artisans. The traditional use for Bamboos to make household furniture items like moorah’s or small stools, decorative items like flowers, utility items like pen stands, picture frames, baskets and dust bins. Attractive user friendly and eco- friendly products made out of bamboo are fruit and vegetable baskets, beer mugs, hair clips, flower vases, containers etc. Bamboo related industries both modern and traditional really play a vital role in solving rural labour, especially the off-farm season labour, and contribute tremendously to the income generation, thus alleviate poverty and improve wellbeing for the rural people.
The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom is involved in promoting languishing crafts like the traditional art of Lepcha Hat making which is made primarily with cane and bamboo. Training for 2 years is provided for Sikkimese boys and girls from the age group of 14 to 24 for skill development in this craft by the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom. This is a self-employment generating venture by which the artisans can earn while working from their own homes.