In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Introduction to Bamboo Plantation in Tamil Nadu 2. Distribution of Bamboo in Tamil Nadu 3. Bamboo Supply and Demand 4. Restoration and Development.
Introduction to Bamboo Plantation in Tamil Nadu:
Bamboos are woody grasses with wide range of habitats varying from sea level tropics to 4000m high mountain slopes. There are about a thousand species of bamboos belonging to 50 different genera in the world. India has perhaps one of the world’s richest resources of bamboos having about 130 species occurring over an area of 10.05 million ha. Peninsular India is endowed with eight genera and 24 species of bamboos. Dendrocalamus strictus and Bambusa arundinacea are the two species commonly found in Tamil Nadu.
The former occurs on the drier slopes while the later in moist valleys. Dandrocalamus strictus or mole bamboo is the species commonly found in Bamboo tracts in Tamil Nadu upto 1000m elevation. Other species found are Bambusa tulda, Oxytenenthera nigrociliata, Cepholostachyum pergracile.
In the Western Ghats and on Coasts where mostly evergreen and semi-evergreen forests occur, 5 species of Oxytenonthera and 8 species of Ochlandra are met with, “On the higher hills of Nilgiris and Pulneys, 4 species of Arundinacea sensulato occur.
Bamboos are put to variety of uses. Bamboo has high calorific value of 4600 to 5400 cal/kg., which makes it an energy crop. Bamboo is poor man’s timber. Bamboo shoots are often used as food and pickles by the tribal. A powder ‘Tabasheer’ made out of bamboo containing 97% silica is used in Ayurveda for treating cough, asthma etc.
Bamboo are used for making handicrafts, furniture, toys, musical instruments, baskets, walking sticks, umbrella handles, wall hangings, agarbathi splints etc., Bamboos are extensively used for the manufacture of all grades paper since 1923. Because of branching in the fibres, bamboos provide strength to paper even though fibre length is smaller than conifers.
Bamboos have been traditionally used as construction material. The strength of bamboos can be compared well with teak. Ninety have been declared as ‘the decade for shelter and habited development’. Bamboos can play a major role in construction of low-cost houses.
In view of variety of uses, to which bamboos are put to, it is essential to not only conserve the existing Natural Bamboo Resources but also develop Bamboos outside the Reserved Forests for meeting the future demand.
Distribution of Bamboo in Tamil Nadu:
Bamboos are found in the Western Ghats, Sherveroys and Javadis of Tamil Nadu. In Western Ghats, Dendrocalamus strictus and Bambusa arundinacea are found in Bolampatty, Pollachi, Udumalpet and Thoonakadavu range of Coimbatore division, Coonoor and Mudumalai ranges of Nilgiris division.
Dendrocalamus strictus is widely distributed in Salem, Attur, Sherveroys North and Sherveroys South Ranges of Salem division and Thuraiyur Range of Trichy division. In Javadis, the Dendrocalamus Strictus is distributed over Chengam, Tirupattur, Alangayam, Sathanoor, Karur and Polur Ranges of Vellore circle.
In addition to natural distribution of bamboo, bamboo plantation have been raised in Salem, Kalrayans, Hosur and ‘Podugai’ areas on the banks of the River Cauvery in Thanjavur and Trichy districts over 12,000 ha. The area under private bamboo plantation in Tamil Nadu is estimated to be 1942 ha during 1988-89. Bamboos are spread over 4.5 lakh ha in forests of Tamil Nadu with rainfall ranging from 30 to 100 inches per annum.
Bamboo Supply and Demand in Tamil Nadu:
Before inception of a paper mill in Tamil Nadu, bamboo was mainly used for construction, cottage industries and for agricultural purposes. There were different commercial classifications. For example, Bambusa bambos (Peru moonkil) used to be classified as ‘Thattai’, ‘Modura Pootu’, “Guranai’, ‘Doddu’, ‘Rasipoottu’ and ‘Thappai’ in Periyar District. While the first three are long and thick and are used for constructional purpose, ‘Rasipootu’ is used as support for plantain crops and for fencing. Once paper mill was started in sixty’s, it becomes a major consumer of bamboos. Bamboo supply was around 50000 tonnes until mid-seventy’s.
A detailed study will show the supply of bamboos from mid-seventy’s and the gradual reduction in the supply of bamboos from over 50,000 tonnes to around 10000 tonnes now. While the Bamboo supply is declining on one hand, the supply of Eucalyptus Pulpwood has been steadily increasing in Tamil Nadu over the same period.
Gregarious flowering of bamboo had been noticed in different parts of Tamil Nadu during different periods. Gregarious flowering was noticed in bamboo forest of Pollachi during 1958-59; in Sherveroys during 1967; in Sathyamangalam during 1972-73 and in parts of Javadis during 1975-76. Recently bamboo has flowered in Vellore division. Flowered and dry bamboo is being supplied to M/s Seshesayee Paper and Board Limited during 1990-91. Dendrocalamus strictus flowers between 30 to 50 years of age. Bamboo seeds profusely and is capable of natural regeneration provided fire and grazing are kept at minimum.
The seeds are viable for few months only. Hence failure of monsoon followed by prolonged drought, recurring forest fires and over grazing by cattle had greatly impeded the process of natural regeneration in the past. Harvesting of bamboos in reserved forests will have to be done diligently.
In fact, the felling rules prescribed for bamboos listed below are quite comprehensive:
1. A minimum of 6 matured culms should be left in each clump.
2. No immature culm of less than 1 year age shall be removed.
3. No culm should be removed with rhizome.
4. Culms shall be cut clean and cut as low as possible (30 cm in height)
5. Felling shall be made as far as possible on the side of the clump opposite to that from which the largest number of new culms spring-up.
But on many occasions the felling rules prescribed were followed more in breach than in practice by the contractors in the past. Hence, Bamboo should be extracted only departmentally under the direct supervision of technically qualified Foresters.
The reasons for the reduction in supply of bamboos are many. Over exploitation, failure of regeneration after gregarious flowering, drought, fire and over grazing, have made serious in roads in to the growing stock of bamboos.
The shift in policy from exploitation to comprehensive conservation of forests during eighties is another important reason for continuing the rest given to bamboo areas and consequent reduction in supply. Reduction in supply of bamboos has not adversely affected the paper mills as the industries managed to compensate the shortfall in bamboo by making use of increased availability of Eucalyptus and other hardwoods as well as bagasse from Sugar Mills.
In fact, one of the major paper mills in Tamil Nadu (viz.) Tamil Nadu Newsprint Limited, with installed capacity of 90,000 MT of paper per year, uses mainly bagasse supplemented with 80,000 tonnes of Eucalyptus wood.
The projected demand of bamboo by Seshesayee Paper and Board Limited is in the order of 35,000 MT. But the mill is getting only an allotment of 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes per annum at present. For efficient manufacture of paper, this mill requires a minimum quantity of bamboos to the tune of 20% of their total raw material requirement.
With the possible establishment of another paper mill in this State and taking into account the requirement of bamboo for construction, agricultural purposes and cottage industries. The estimated demand for bamboos in Tamil Nadu will be around 1,00,000 tonnes by 2,000 A.D.
Restoration and Development of Bamboo in Tamil Nadu:
In order to meet anticipated increase in demand and also to restore bamboo cover for ecological reasons; Forest Department has taken up restoration of bamboo as one of the objectives under different schemes. Many of the over worked bamboo areas in Tamil Nadu have been given rest for recuperation.
In fact, some of the bamboo areas that were given rest have recovered exceedingly well; Varattupallam slopes in Erode Division and Gundri areas of Sathyamangalam Division bear testimony to this fact. Restoration of bamboo has been taken-up under Western Ghats Development Progaramme, Hill Area Development Progaramme and Nilgiris Biosphere Scheme. Tamil Nadu has also developed 12,000 ha. of man-made bamboo plantations. Improved soil and moisture conservation measures and provision of suitable fencing are two important aspects of bamboo restoration. Elephant proof trenches and electric fencing are being tried to keep the cattle and wild life damage to minimum.
Bamboos are the excellent species to be promoted under Social Forestry. Bamboo is a promising cash crop which can give return of Rs.10,000 to 20,000 per acre to the farmer if managed properly.
Realising this fact certain enterprising farmers in Thanjavur, South Arcot and Erode Districts have taken to bamboo farming. A three year old bamboo plantation over 6-1/2 acres in Thaneer Pandal in Erode District with watering once-a-week has grown over 40 ft. in height. There are many such success stories. Bamboo grows exceedingly well with watering once in a week or 10 days. Intercrops like Jower. Ragi, Groundnut or Turmeric can be grown with bamboo for the first 2 years. Bamboo grown in Seerkazhi of Thanjavur District at the initial cost of Rs.2,000 per acre can yield from 100-150 clumps upto Rs. 20,000 per acre once in two years from 7th year onwards.
Bamboos are exceedingly fast growing and extensively useful species with exceptional efficiency to ameliorate the environment. Hence, restoration and development of bamboos are not only silviculturally significant but also sociologically relevant.