New bamboo mission to promote commercial cultivation to come up for Cabinet nod

By Hindustan Times on 08 Apr 2018 | read

The Union government has finalised a restructured national bamboo mission to promote commercial bamboo cultivation and link growers to industry in a bid to boost farmer incomes amid rural dissent.

It hopes commercial plantations and product development in the bamboo sector will help in achieving its target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

The new mission will involve the participation of 12 different ministries. It has been proposed that the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the government’s flagship programme for housing, will utilise the scheme to install bamboo houses.

For the mission, expected to be brought before the Cabinet committee on economic affairs soon, the agriculture ministry has held consultations with representatives from construction and paper industries, apart from architects and the Numaligarh Refinery Limited in Assam.

The Northeast, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh are key bamboo-growing states. “We are looking to explore the full value chain. The focus is to shift from just handicrafts to high-end products, such as flooring, wall cladding and furniture,” an official familiar with the development said.

“We examined the earlier bamboo mission and found significant gaps. The value chain linking farmers to markets was missing. The restructured mission aims to plug these gaps,” the official said.

The new bamboo mission will have a three-level subsidy. Firstly, farmers growing bamboo on a commercial basis will get input subsidies on a per-hectare model. Secondly, entrepreneurs will also get subsidies to set up processing centres.

Thirdly, industries will qualify for a credit-linked back-ended subsidy, meaning they will be eligible to take loans for bamboo business and will be given a subsidy once the project is completed.

The proposal for a revised bamboo programme was made by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech, with an outlay of Rs1,290 crore.

Since such plantations have higher carbon sequestration, they are environmentally sustainable too, the official said. Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon is removed from the environment.

Making a key regulatory change, the cabinet in 2017 approved an amendment in the Indian Forest Act 1927 to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the requirement of a permit. Bamboo in such areas has been designated as a grass, rather than a tree. India has about 136 species of bamboo, making it the country with the highest biodiversity and the second-highest bamboo area, after China.

The government believes the full potential of the bamboo sector could not be realised because growers faced a number of environmental restrictions on felling, transportation and selling.

The new mission aims to allow free movement of bamboo and create demand for the raw material as well as encourage growth of small and medium industries dependent on bamboo.