AsiaCalling

India’s Green Gold

ইমেইল প্রিন্ট পিডিএফ
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Download   Green gold is the nickname people in Kerala have for bamboo.

It's a crop which is environmentally friendly and the source of income for thousands.

Bamboo is being used to make floor tiles, furniture and even toothpicks.

It is a traditional industry in the South Indian state, however the Keralan government is using technology and innovation to modernise production and it’s starting to pay off.

But bamboo is not only a money spinner. It is also being touted as a resource to combat climate change.   

Michael Atkin has more for Asia Calling.

 

Mony Sahadevan sits in a group of women weaving bamboo mats. It is precise work, requiring nimble fingers and a delicate touch.

The 60 year old is one of 100,000 traditional workers in Kerala.

The state government has brought these women out of their homes and organised them in 500 community mat weaving centres.

"When I was doing this at home there was no system like this, now we workers are together in a group. We have more status as workers. Because of the reduction in labour from the machines I am much more interested in this work."

Machines now cut the bamboo, which reduces the workload and has led to an increase in productivity of 50 percent.

That's not the only incentive for workers. The Kerala State Bamboo Corporation also subsidises wages by 13 percent.

Mony now receives just under three dollars a day.

"The wages are better than they were before but still it is not enough to meet all my expenses."

Down the road at the Angamally bamboo factory workers turn raw bamboo into plywood.

Francis is one of the factory workers. His previous job was cutting bamboo in the forest, forcing him to camp for weeks at a time.

"I was lonely because it was taking 2-3 weeks in the forest without any connection with my family and that was very painful. Here at the factory, I can work during the day and return home. I can spend good time with my family and I like that. I also have time to help poor rural people with political problems and play shuttle badminton."

Dr Shanavas is the Managing Director of the Kerala State Bamboo Corporation. He says the aim of the Corporation is to improve the lives of traditional bamboo workers.

Dr Shanavas is committed to regularly increasing their wages.  

"Definitely, in the beginning the per square feet mat weaving rate was very less. Now we have increased 30-40 percent. In all fields in the loading section, the bamboo cutting section, the mat weaving section, every section we have increased their wages. After that only then profit comes."

The corporation began operation in 1971 and is only now starting to make a profit.

Last year it made over two hundred thousand US dollars.

Dr Shanavas hopes a new range of products from toothpicks to curtains and floor tiles, will increase the profit margin.

A major selling point overseas is the environmentally friendly nature of bamboo - it grows quickly and requires small amounts of water.

"We are planning to export flooring tiles, blinds to European countries because in European countries it is very popular because bamboo is an eco-friendly material. It is very famous and very popular."

But Dr KK Seethalakshmi thinks bamboo also has a future in the carbon offset industry. She is a scientist at the Kerala Forest Research Institute.

Carbon offsetting is where a polluter pays to support a project that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like a tree plantation.

Dr Seethalakshmi says bamboo has been found to be more effective than other tree types in absorbing carbon dioxide.

"The plant is able to absorb carbon dioxide and fix photosynthesis at a higher rate when compared to teak and eucalyptus it is able to do more carbon sequestration. That can help in reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

However, India has yet to fully capitalise on the carbon trading industry which is worth billions of dollars, according to Dr Seethalakshmi.

Although it has a large number of projects registered under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, she says bamboo plantations have been largely overlooked. Forest plantations cover 16 percent of the total forest cover in Kerala.  

"India has a lot of natural resources and we can make good progress in carbon trading. There is a lack of expertise in the project preparation and proper submission. Now people are getting trained in this area and some of the plantations are successful especially eucalyptus in Karnataka and now bamboo is initiated in the North East."

Tapping into that Green Gold could combat climate change and bring other environmental benefits like reduced soil erosion and water run-off.

That Dr Seethalakshmi says, is good for everyone.

সর্বশেষ আপডেট ( সোমবার, 19 এপ্রিল 2010 10:11 )  

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