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Bamboo, the versatile raw material:

UNIDO releases $ 2.1 m to set up industries

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) under its global environment facility grant scheme has released US$ 2.1 m to setup industries using bamboo as raw material.

The total cost of the project is $15.9m and it will include cash and kind, said National Director UNIDO (Sri Lanka) Nawaz Rajabdeen.

He said that the objective of the project is to develop a bamboo supply chain and product industry in Sri Lanka leading to reduced global environmental impact from GHG emissions with a sustainable industry base.

“The project components include policy framework, bamboo tissue reproduction, establishment of plantations, plantation operation, transfer of bamboo processing technology to Sri Lanka and pelletising.

UNIDO has already released the funds to start research and by the end of this year we will commence awareness seminars to teach of the values of bamboo, said Rajabdeen.

Residues of bamboo processing can be used for energy purposes while bamboo sprouts (another byproduct) constitute an important food crop. At present no significant market exists for sprouts but an ongoing project by the international network of bamboo and rattan (INBAR)in Sri lanka is planning to develop such an industry and markets.

The target is to develop 10,000 hectares of new bamboo plantations in a specific region that can serve an industry cluster.

The plantations will be on degraded land.

The industry would have three products including engineered bamboo materials for structural applications, bamboo pellets for local energy use and for export markets and bamboo sprouts for food.

Sri lanka has no bamboo processing industry but China and India have established industries with the support to UNIDO. This project involves the transfer of bamboo processing technology from India and China.

Development of a bamboo industry in the country will require technology transfer from these countries for buying of equipment, capacity building in operating and maintaining this equipment and development of a network of local service providers.

Technology transfer in the areas of tissue reproduction, bamboo processing technology and bamboo pelettising technology from India and China is planned. As a plantation takes seven years to mature it is a project with a long life span, but after four years cropping starts and the first products will become available which would be sufficient to cover operation and maintenance costs.

UNIDO has helped India to rediscover bamboo.

An eco-friendly material bamboo can help the rural poor generate income and employment opportunities - and will help the country become a world leader in the industry.

Fourteen species of bamboo have been reported growing in Sri Lanka, and only five of them are presently in use. They are widely used in making crafts and scaffoldings.

Bamboo is one of the oldest materials used by people to increase comfort and uplift human life.

It is best put to use in situations where its natural properties are emphasised.

The strength of bamboo culms, their straightness, smoothness, lightness, cylindric structure, abundance and shorter period in which they attain maturity make them suitable for a wide variety of purposes. Bamboo has excellent properties and its natural resistance to decay is low. Chemical preservation using preservatives which have good diffusion properties, improves the durability of bamboo structures.

World demand for handicrafts made of bamboo has increased considerably which has helped the development of cottage industries based on preserved bamboo. The whole biomass of the tree can be utilised.

Bamboo has several characteristics that make it a suitable and economical building material for building construction, as well as for scaffolding.

In place of steel, bamboo has been considered as a reinforcement factor for concrete.

The major problem is the shortage of the raw material for utilization in Sri Lanka. Wastage can be minimized by introducing preservation methods.

People must be made aware of the value of bamboo to encourage their supportive participation in development, conservation and usage aspects.

Bamboo products can be promoted as a substitute to plastic and polythene goods by highlighting their environment friendly qualities.

Bamboo resources in Sri Lanka are not as abundant as in many South Asian countries, and consequently the importance of bamboo in the household economy, construction, and in cottage industry is comparatively less.

The availability of indigenous bamboo species in forest areas, such as Ochlandra stridula, is decreasing because of deforestation and over-exploitation.

However, they can still be found abundantly in a few areas, in Ratnapura and Kalutara Districts.

The bigger diameter bamboos are mostly introduced species (Bambusa vulagris and Dendracalamus giganteus), which are cultivated in homegardens, and along roadsides and riverbanks.

The bamboo handicraft industry uses B. vulgaris and O. stridula species and the construction industry uses B. vulagris and D. giganteus.

The bamboo industry supports about 250 families and 690 workers.

According to a survey by the Forest Department about 80 percent of people who collect bamboo process it for household consumption. The balance process it for domestic use or sell them to processors.

The price of bamboo has increased much faster than the rate of inflation, which suggests that the availability of bamboo has gone down in relation to demand.

A couple of decades ago bamboo was used mainly as material to make poles, baskets, furniture, fences and handicraft items.

Bamboo has thousands of uses including airplane ‘skins’, desalination filters, diesel fuel, and medicine. New bamboo shoots can be eaten. It can also be made into fibre for clothing, used to reinforce concrete.

In Africa, bamboo is used to manufacture bicycle frames, because bamboo absorbs shocks well and would make bike riding on a rough terrain smoother. Bamboo makes for eco-friendly homes, which can be earthquake resistant. Bamboo can help reduce our carbon footprint and fight global warming. It is a crucial element in the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A grove of bamboo releases 35 percent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees and absorbs four times as much carbon.

Bamboo is harvested and replenished with no impact to the environment.

As a fast growing plant, bamboo could provide the answer to deforestation.

A bamboo sapling grows to its full potential in four years compared to oak that takes 50 years and others that take up to 70 years to reach maturity.

Yet bamboo is said to be as longlasting and sturdy as oak. Bamboo is also durable, light, and affordable,

India has 30 per cent of the world’s bamboo resources, but contributes only four percent share of the global market. This is mainly because of low productivity.

 

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