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North East India: The Largest Reservoir of Bamboo Resource

NeW Bureau

Bamboo is particularly popular among Mongolian people and the countries dominated by Mongolian race. It is one of the important minor forest produces that assists in subsistence income of tribal folk to a greater extend. It has deep cultural significance in the Indian as well as Chinese culture and is the highest yielding renewable natural resources and different species occur in different parts of the country.

India is the second only to China in Bamboo production and it is immensely popular in northeastern region. Bamboo is one of the most abundant and environmental-friendly and sustainable resources available in North East Region, which is not being used to its full potential. North Eastern Himalayan region of India has great diversity of bamboo resources. Most of the species come across in our country are indigenous. Of them are two primary species dendrocalamus strictus and the bambusa arundinacea. Dense bamboos are found mostly in Arunachal Pradesh followed by Mizoram and Manipur. Mizoram occupies the largest forest area under different bamboo species, followed by Meghalaya. As this region is the largest reservoir of bamboo resource in India, screening is required to identify the most delicate bamboo species the development of package of practices for their mass multiplication. Four States of Northeast i.e. Tripura, Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland have formulated their own policies for development of Bamboo and conservation of Bamboo forests.

High diversity of bamboo resource plays a significant role in the food and nutritional security of the tribal population. Tribal communities of the region use this potential resource for food, shelter, furniture, handicrafts, medicines and various ethno-religious purpose. The skill of working with bamboo is extremely widespread with a large percentage of the ethnic population capable of refined craftsmanship in this material. The vigorous bamboo craft tradition of North East gets the most creative expression through the craftsmanship of the various Northeastern tribes. Intricate structures and myriad types of cuts and profiles made from numerous types of chisels are richly illustrated through the various types of bamboo crafts that these artisans make. The items they make often include things like trays, unique furniture, bamboo and cane mats, decorative lamp shades, stools, hand fans, baskets, hand bags, jewelries etc. This region can add to the global export of steamed and canned bamboo shoot to European countries. All these are labor intensive industries which have an employment potential to the developing states. Thus bamboo industry has the potential to become a major employer in the North Eastern States.

There are many popular uses of bamboo that varies from region to region and can be grown without much care having flexibility of giving us varieties of products of different designs. It was traditionally popular as a cheap raw material for building rural dwellings, for manufacturing utilitarian goods like baskets, various types of beautiful crafts, weaving and spinning equipments in textiles operation and shortage bin in agricultural produce, etc. North Eastern India is famous for bamboo wares notably various decorative items of Tripura, utility items of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh like beer mugs, japas, baskets etc and decorative as well as utility items of Mizoram  like the famous Mizo hat.

There are many legends and folk stories associated with the creation of bamboo craft. There are many heroes all over India who contributed towards growth and development of bamboo craft. Amongst tribes of northeastern India, there are many heroes and many of them were legendary. It is believed that growth of bamboo forests ensures good rainfall. That was the reason why during ancient period growing bamboo was encouraged. During modern days it is scientifically proved that, the friction created due to rubbing of bamboo stems when the wind blows has positive effect on ecology to cause sufficient rain, which corroborates the ancient belief. Bamboos are also considered as a medicinal plant. Many ancient and modern literatures recognize this fact. Unfortunately not much research has been concluded on bamboo hence, not much data is available for planning to utilize bamboo effectively. Scientific mode of utilization of the bamboo resources will not only lead in improving the socio-economic condition of the region but also help to maintain the ecological balance.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihary Vajpapayee launched the National Bamboo Mission on June 5, 1999. The Mission got a boost with UNDP deciding to initiate a Cane and Bamboo Technological Upgradation and Networking Project in the North East Region, where bamboo is an integral part of daily life and culture of diverse ethnic communities. Moreover former President Late A.P.J Abdul Kalam called for embarking on the development path in a mission mod. Bamboo Mission, which targeted for North Eastern India. Thus in North Eastern India two centers chosen are Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati and NERIST, Itanagar. IIT, Guwahati has an industrial design center and bamboo being the priority item in North Eastern India, development of bamboo craft is one of the subjects chosen by this interface. The center has turned out to be a center of excellence and has developed varieties of value added items of bamboo craft and translated to the field.

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