Assam is rich in sylvan resources and most of its forests are richly stocked with bamboos of various species. The State is one of the largest bamboo producing states in India and forms an integral part of culture, lifestyle and economy of the people. There is a social background of bamboo in Assam that finds a place in ritual and recreation, in culture and ceremony and many people still depend on it for their livelihood, and for household and functional uses.
The main bamboo growing areas of Assam are the districts of Cachar, Karbi Anglong, North Cachar Hills, Nagaon and Lakhimpur. Apart from forests, plenty of bamboos are grown in the villages throughout the State. The communities nurture and protect it and are storehouse of vast knowledge and skills related to the propagation, processing and usage of bamboo. There is a traditional familiarity with the material, and a legacy of skill that can be built upon for newly emerging applications and products. At present, there are vast untapped resources of bamboo that can open avenues for utilization of bamboo for many productive works. Such a huge surplus of bamboo is not to be found elsewhere in India.
As many as 51 species of bamboo grow in Assam and they are being used for diverse purposes, mainly for buildings, furniture and diverse contraptions. The important species of bamboos of economic value are the Muli (Melocanna bambusoides), Dalu (Teinostachyum dalloa), Khang (Dendrocalmus longispatnus), Kaligoda (Oxytenanthera nigrociliata) and Pecha(Dendrocalamus Hamilton-ii). The Muli and the Dalu have great commercial importance, the former for pulping, constructional and fencing purposes, and the latter for the mat and basket industry.
People of Assam have the skills of working with the material, and knowledge of the cultivation and management of bamboo. The making of bamboo products is perhaps the most universal of all the crafts practiced by a large number of artisans scattered throughout the State. It is practiced as a household industry and no mechanical device is used. Bamboo products are used for a wide range of purposes and extensively used in every household. Various products such as bamboo houses, bamboo baskets, bamboo mats, bamboo hats, umbrella handles, walking sticks, tool handles, fishing rods, tent poles, cordage, ladders, yokes, hand-fans, bamboo and leaf headgear (the most indispensable item of the field workers), handicrafts like toys and dolls, musical instruments and various domestic and agricultural implements etc are crafted here out of the bamboo. The bamboo houses are a combination of bamboo matting and wooden framework. Bamboo baskets of Assam come in various shapes and sizes and serve various distinct purposes. Also, the baskets differ from one tribe to another in their shape and style. It is observed that there is no particular caste or community in the Assam Valley who are exclusively connected with this traditional craft. It is generally carried on by all, particularly the peasants irrespective of caste, community or creed. Even though Assam has been traditionally rich in bamboo, bamboo craft from Assam do not figure prominently in the handicraft market of India and Assam’s share in the export trade is negligible.
In Assam the major use of bamboo is paper, manufactured by Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. that functions through its unit in Panchgram, Hailakandi district and Jagiroad, Morigaon. The prospects of establishment of several pulp and paper plants, big and small, on bamboo alone, are tremendous. Government of Assam encourage, promote and support the development of the bamboo sector in a comprehensive manner, through a multi disciplinary, multi departmental and multi dimensional integrated approach to provide economic benefits to the people of the State. A Bamboo Technology Park was inaugurated on 23rd June at Chaygaon in Kamrup district with an investment of Rs 62.28 crore. The primary objective of the project is to provide infrastructure facilities to bamboo entrepreneurs against payment of user charge. The park will act as an institution by introducing the latest technologies in bamboo processing, skill building, employment generation and changing the economic and industrial scenario of the entire state.
Conversion of bamboo diversity, germ-plasm, sustainable management and use of dedicated bamboo forest and promoting bamboo cultivation in homesteads are the key-trust areas of Bamboo Policy of Assam. Recent advances in technology and in product and application, development have brought about a growing realisation that bamboo in particular can be the vehicle for value addition, incremental income and employment. It is a material that lends itself easily to simple processing technologies. At the same time it is capable of being used for high end and high value products and applications. Thus Bamboo can revolutionalise the economy of the State ensuring employment opportunities to a large number of people, extension and awareness about bamboo sector development will be given renewed thrust.