Forest Act Amended; Bamboo In Non-Forest Areas Not A 'Tree' Anymore
President Ram Nath Kovind on November 23 cleared an ordinance amending the Indian Forest Act, omitting bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the definition of trees. With this move, it will become easier to fell or transport bamboo without having to take several go-aheads. Before the ordinance was issued, the definition of tree in the Act included palm, bamboo, brushwood and cane.
The brief ordinance, aimed at increasing bamboo plantations, states that Clause seven in Section 2 of the Act would omit the word bamboo.
"The government, in a landmark initiative, has promulgated the Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017, to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling or transit permit for its economic use," Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
Though taxonomically a grass, bamboo was legally defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Before this amendment, the felling and transit of bamboo grown on forest as well non-forest land attracted provisions of the Act.
"This was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land," an official statement said.
The move, it is hoped, would contribute to achieving the objective of doubling farmers' incomes by 2022.
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.
One tonne of bamboo provides 350 man days of employment and an enabling environment for the cultivation of bamboo will help in creation of job opportunities in the country.
The current demand of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tonnes.
Though India has 19 per cent share of world's area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6 per cent, the statement said.
At present, India imports timber and allied products such as pulp, paper and furniture.
"In 2015, India imported about 18.01 million cubic metres 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," it said.
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.
A Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on November 22 approved the promulgation of the ordinance on amendment of Section 2 (7) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
According to the minister, a major objective of the amendment was to promote cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas to achieve the twin objectives of increasing the income of farmers and also increasing the green cover of the country.
He also said that bamboo grown in forest areas would continue to be governed by the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
"On the one hand, the legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals will be removed. On the other hand, it will create a viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land," the minister said.
The measure would go a long way in enhancing the agricultural income of farmers and tribals, especially in north-east and Central India, he added.
The amendment is also aimed at encouraging farmers and others to take up plantation or block plantation of suitable bamboo species on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under agroforestry mission.
"The move is in line with the objective of doubling the income of farmers, besides conservation and sustainable development," Vardhan said.
The amendment would also greatly aid the success of the recently constituted National Bamboo Mission, he added.
With inputs from Housing News