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Manoshi Goswami
Date of Publish: 2015-12-19

The pole can do the trick

Bamboo from North East India can help the country find the answer to clean development mechanism as per Kyoto Protocol


Not for nothing does one notice umpteen grooves of bamboo spiking up to the sky in the landscape of North East India. For centuries together, these lanky poles that come in quite a variety have been playing an important part in the everyday life of the people of the region, particularly to those that lead an agrarian, tribal lifestyle. 

From the agricultural fields to the dhuachang -- the perforated platform placed above a wood fire stove to preserve seeds, food, etc, in the kitchen; from traditional housings to the plate of rice served; from the boundary fence to the fishing rod for angling; rural north-eastern households have many uses of bamboo to augment their daily life. Quite evidently, this “green gold” also has its importance in the folk traditions of the region–be it as the raw material for dance equipment and musical instruments or as a part of songs and proverbs.

Now, with the climate change conversation heating up worldwide with fresh trigger from COP 21in Paris, bamboo -- if given due importance – can play a vital role there too. The woody grass can be the key raw material for a climate friendly development model worldwide, and particularly for India and help less its carbon footprint.

What makes bamboo the wonder grass in present-day context is its ability to act as an efficient carbon sink. If properly nurtured, a bamboo plant can grow up to 1.2 metre per day, which makes it one of the fastest species in the plant kingdom. It signifies its capacity for high carbon assimilation and thereby its ability to play a role in managing the carbon burden worldwide. Being a plant of C3 category, the physiological characters of bamboo are quite conducive for higher productivity and sequestration of considerable amount carbon from the troposphere. It is also worth noting that being a C3 plant, it can enhance its production under higher CO2 environments. Compared to other forests, bamboo forests can remove more carbon from the air under adequate management practices.

Moreover, it facilitates soil organic matter and organic carbon accumulation. Other important aspects of this species are its worldwide distribution, which can help its better adaptation in a changing climatic scenario as well as its compatibility in different agro-forestry systems.

What is also noteworthy is that the carbon that accumulates in the bamboo remains trapped for a considerably longer duration if it is transformed into different products for household or other uses. It means the carbon sink capacity of bamboo gets extended due to its product diversification as furniture, building materials, decorative items, etc. This enhances bamboo’s usability in clean development mechanism (CDMs).

As suggested by Kyoto Protocol, CDMs indicate processes that can assist developed nations to cut their GHG emissions as well as developing or under-developed nations in achieving sustainable development. As per the provisions of the Protocol, forests being considered carbon sinks of the world, afforestation and reforestation activities qualify as agents of CDM.

From the angle of CDM, bamboo forests perform four fundamental tasks simultaneously -- removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storage of carbon pool for a longer duration, poverty alleviation and achievement of sustainable development as well as protection of soil environment. It underlines why bamboo can be successfully incorporated in CDM projects for climate change mitigation. If adopted, this may carry the potential for earning more carbon credit for India and in turn, more revenue for the north eastern part of the country.

Increased faulty developmental activities, rapid deforestation, accelerated and un-regulated use of fossil fuel and fossil fuel derivatives have triggered the changes in the global climate by enhancing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Recent reports from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports on global ambient carbon dioxide concentration have shown that the level has reached 400 ppm mark for a considerable period of time this year. As an evidence of the possible impacts of this rise in CO2 concentration, 13 of the last 15 years have been recorded as the hottest during the post-industrial period. The recent floods in Chennai, untimely hailstorms across northern India early this year, catastrophic cloudburst and floods in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Kashmir last year, delayed monsoon in the Indian Sub-continent and the resultant drought, the Himalayan glacier retreat, increased incidence of cyclonic storms and hurricanes, etc. are some of its outcomes closer home. As far as the North East is concerned, the statistics of Indian Meteorological Department shows a deficit of 26to 59 per cent in monsoonal rain in the region this year. All of these highlight the need to incorporate carbon sequestration techniques in the developmental process of the country.

Here in, the country’s 136 varieties of bamboo, 89 of which are found in the North East, can come in handy. The point is, will the policymakers rise to the occasion?

Manoshi Goswami

(Manoshi Goswami is an environmental researcher and science communicator. A post graduate of Environmental Science, Ms. Goswami also is presently working for science popularization among the children as a project scientist in Assam Science Technology and Environment Council, Guwahati, Assam. )




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