Bamboo, now not a tree

The bill to exclude bamboo  from a definition of tree under Indian Forest Act, 1927, has been passed by the both houses of parliament.

-The Lok Sabha had passed it on December 20, the Rajya Sabha passed it on December 27.

-Earlier government had promulgated the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree in November 2017. Section 2 (7) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 has been amended.

-As per the government, this  bill will improve the earnings of tribals and dwellers living around forests.

-The bill will permit felling and transit of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. However, bamboo grown on forest lands would continue to be classified as tree and would be guided by the existing legal restrictions.

-The major objective of the amendment is to promote the cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas and improve farmers’ income, keeping in mind the prime minister’s Modi’s target of doubling farmers income by 2022.

-Though taxonomically a grass, bamboo was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Before this amendment, cutting and transport of bamboo grown in forest as well as non-forest land was illegal. This was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.

-However, some opposition parties have opposed the above bill alleging that it was being passed in a hurry without proper consultations with stakeholders and the states.

-Opposition also  alleged it would favour industrialists. One member of parliament asked the government, how enforcement agencies would differentiate between bamboo grown in forest and non-forest areas.

-Bamboo grows abundantly in areas outside forests with an estimated growing stock of 10.20 million tonnes and about 20 million people are involved in bamboo related activities.

-The current demand for bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tonnes.

Although India has 19 per cent share of the world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6 per cent.

-At present, India imports timber and allied products such as pulp, paper and furniture.

-In 2015, India imported about 18.01 million cubic meters of timber and allied products worth Rs. 43,000 crore. The amendment will help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from domestic production.

-According to the environment ministry, after this amendment the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed, it will also create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land.

-According to the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the bamboo business in the north-east region alone has a potential of about Rs. 5,000 crore in the next 10 years.

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