About a century ago nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote to the then Maharaja of Tripura, requesting him for saplings of a peculiar species of bamboo, the Mooli bamboo grown abundantly in Tripura. This particular variety had become indispensable for the scientific experiments of the renowned scientist, Jagadish Chandra Bose. On yet another occasion, intending to cover a big room of his Bolpur School, he made a similar request for the durable bamboo.
Bamboo is important natural resources of Tripura that grows all across the State. It is one of the major bamboo producing states in India. The State with 60% forest land and out of which around 60% are bamboo forests. It has a very natural link with bamboo not only in growth of bamboo but also in bamboo raft and in turn bamboo is the most effective plant in the erosion control of the river banks apart from other thousands of uses. Endowed with rich and diverse resources of bamboo with traditional usage, Tripura is home to 21 species of bamboo out of 136 species available in India. Of these, Muli bamboo (Melocanna baccifera) make up for more than 80% of all the species, followed by Bambusa tulda (Mritinga), Schizostachyum dullooa and others. Kanak Kaich (Thyrsostachys oliveri) as is locally known in Tripura, is one of the most commercially important bamboo species of Tripura.
The bamboo resource has a unique livelihood importance among majority of the population in Tripura. It is the most important non timber forest produce used extensively by tribal and rural people and plays an important role in employment generation and socio-economic upliftment in rural sector. It is used in all walks of life both inn rural as well as in urban area. There are plantations of bamboo both in the public and the private sectors and are used in multifarious ways. These invaluable plants provide shelter, furniture and artistic objects for home decoration and most importantly livelihood to rural poor.
The bamboo based economic activities is part of the life in the State and huge amount of employment is generated through this natural resource alone. Tribal communities rely heavily on forests resources for their sustenance. Bamboo and its products that are used for various commercial and industrial products prove ideal for raising the economy of the local people without making any compromise to their other socio-cultural traditional needs and aspiration. Bamboo is an essential material for house-building for the lakhs of rural poor in Tripura besides being used for making house-hold furniture and is also important in religious and cultural ceremonies of tribal.
The bamboo crafts of Tripura show remarkably extensive weaving patterns, unique styles and attractive designs. Various attractive items like fish basket, fish trap, baskets like for carrying firewood, grains and for general-purpose marketing, for carrying construction materials, Laii for washing rice, to store small objects, date basket, to contain puffed rice, cattle muzzle to restrain cattle from grazing in the rice fields, large grain storage basket, rain shield and headgear, bamboo whistle and Riang Hookah a smoking pipe, trays, pencil holders, lamp shades, decorative fans, door screens, stools, vegetable baskets, shopping bags and many more. The state of Tripura is famous for her bamboo screens made from split bamboo, so finely woven that they look almost like ivory. They are delicately appliquéd with coloured bamboo chips. Bamboo matting is a thriving industry in Tripura. Another decorative product made from waste strips of matting are flower sticks. Bamboo table-mats are one of the most popular products. They are woven on the loom in the required length and width. Artistic handicrafts made of Tripura’s bamboo have acquired immense popularity throughout the length and breadth of India. Despite, only about 2% of the extracted bamboo is utilized for value addition through handicrafts and other products.
Tripura Bamboo handicrafts are considered to be among the best in the country for their exquisite designs, wide range of products and artistic appeal. This industry has a great export potential as well. Although the demand for bamboo is ever increasing, unfortunately its production has not been enhanced proportionately. The hilly terrain of Tripura is not suitable for setting up large and medium scale industries. It also hinders a proper communication system. But small scale and cottage industries have a great scope.
Considering tremendous scope for development of the bamboo sector, the State Government has formulated State Bamboo Policy in the year 2001 and constituted ‘State Bamboo Mission’ in 2007, under PPP framework, for integrated development of Bamboo Sector. It also engaged IL& FS Cluster Development Initiative Ltd as project implementing agency (PIA) to implement in cluster based approach. Tripura Bamboo Mission (TBM) has a large focus on generating non-muli high value adding bamboo plantations especially as private plantations and homestead plantations. The mission has conducted extensive cluster requirements analysis. A modern bamboo tiles factory has been set-up. The Craft Teacher’s Institute (CTTI) set up by the State Government has done commendable work in this field. The State Forest Department (SFD) is actively engaged in development of bamboo resources in the forest areas. The Forest Department with JICA, IGDC, and Tripura Bamboo Mission has taken up massive training programmes for the rural artisans in value addition of bamboo through community capacity building in elevating bamboo products as bamboo sub-sector industrial avenues for the state of Tripura. The Tripura State Government has also signed an MOU with INBAR (International network for Bamboo and Rattan) for effective implementation of the Bamboo Policy of the State. Initiatives taken towards high density bamboo plantation to meet the present day market demand and efforts are being taken to use of technology in value addition activities to suit the National and International standards.
There has been remarkable increase in the revenue generated from bamboo handicraft sector due to the initiatives taken by Tripura Bamboo Mission. This has resulted in resource crisis of economically. This has also brought in a positive change in the mindset of people towards raising of bamboo plantations. Over 500 grassroots institutions including SHGs, artisans’ societies and cooperatives, SPVs have been promoted by TBM. Across the various sector, local community production centers, collection centers, technical facility centers have been established to strengthen the value chain, promote local enterprise and ensure sustainable livelihoods for the rural poor. Majority of the beneficiaries under the program have been women and minorities who comprise of the poorest sections of the population in the state.
Thousands of families are exclusively covered under Bamboo based activities such as incense stick, making incense stick rolling, umbrella rod making, planting and harvesting,supply to paper mills and bamboo handicrafts. An overall development of this sector has an immense possibility of enhancing the employment potential in the State.