Bamboo can prove to be a great “economic change agent”, so believes Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who has lined up big plans to tap its potential.
“We will shortly make a presentation before Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A bamboo sub-group is likely to be constituted under the Niti Aayog… Bamboo can give employment to at least 50 lakh people in rural areas,” Gadkari told PTI.
Gadkari, who recently chaired a high-level meeting on bamboo attended by several key ministers, including Prakash Javadekar, Smriti Irani, Radha Mohan Singh, said the domestic market of bamboo is currently pegged at about USD 10 billion.
To be sure, he is not without reasons. Huge jobs from bamboo plantation are only one part of the story, insisted Gadkari, who saw it as a clean source of power that will go a long way in mitigating ill-effects of pollution.
Production of ethanol, which is derived from bamboo and mostly used as a substitute for petrol and diesel, is not an issue, the minister said, adding norms for bio-diesel and ethanol have been changed and granted necessary approvals.
Bamboo’s calorific value stands at 4,000, which reflects its huge potential.
“Bamboo can be employed for generating green power. Apart from livelihood opportunities, we will have an alternative to petrol, diesel and gas, which pollutes environment,” he said.
That’s not all. It can also lead to a lower import bill, which runs into an annual Rs 8 lakh crore, the minister was quick to point out.
The government is also working on plans to encourage farmers to go for bamboo plantation alongside National Highways. The Road Transport and Highways Ministry has already unveiled a plan to provide green cover for one lakh km of NH by earmarking one per cent of the project cost for greening of roads.
This will translate into at least Rs 5,000 crore for plantation in the next five years, Gadkari said.
Gadkari referred to China, which he said even makes pickles and clothes out of bamboo whereas in India, the resource remains untapped, suggesting “we should use wasteland and unused land for bamboo plantation”.
The minister is going the whole hog to popularise the agricultural product. He even gifted Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata an intricately-carved bamboo briefcase when the latter called on him during an official visit, who in turn wants introduce such skills at the Tata Trusts.
“Bamboo has immense scope for innovation and creation of livelihood. We need to improve on designs to create bigger markets. We need to augment production capacity.” Gadkari said.
A K Bhattacharya, Project Head, National Green Highways, couldn’t agree more, who said growing bamboo alongside National Highways will be a priority.
Bhattacharya regretted that despite huge potential, India’s bamboo exports are less than those of the Philippines and Vietnam.
“China’s domestic bamboo economy in 2012 stood at Rs 1,17,000 crore. It accounts for 90 per cent of the world export market of Rs 36,000 crore,” he added.
There are plans to build two bamboo bus stops in Bhopal, which houses 13 facilities dealing in this agri product and employing 50 people at each centre.