Bamboo charcoal processing as one of the remedies for bamboo flowering in Manipur
Dr N Irabanta Singh & Aeroshil Nameirakpam
Bamboo flowering is a natural phenomenon occurring once in every 49 or 50 years. It signals the end of bamboo life span. After a bamboo plant has flowered, it will dry up and its fruit would ultimately fall on the ground which then is eaten by rodents. These bamboo fruits increase the fertility of rodents. Consequently, the population of rodents get multiplied within a short time.
Bamboo flowering and socio-economic status
Following bamboo flowering, food crops during 2005 harvesting season had been divested not only Tamenglong district but had also affected pockets of Chandel and Churachandpur district, as well as pockets of Jiribam sub-division due to rodent population recording an alarming rise (The Sangai Express, 23 February, 2006). The then Forest and Environment Minister gave a detailed account of the steps, taken up by the state government in the Assembly floor to tackle the likely effects following the large scale bamboo flowering phenomenon in Chandel, Churachandpur, Tamenglong districts as well as at Jiribam sub-division of Imphal East District (The Sangai Express, 7 May 2007).
Raising the call attention motion on the floor of the state Assembly, opposition leaderJoy mentioned that the utility of bamboo also only improves the socio-economic life of the impoverished people but also in augmentation of the rural economy (The Sangai Express, 5 May, 2007).
Bamboo flowering: Relief for victims
During 2008-09 financial year, over Rs. 16 crores were given by the state government as compensation to the victims of bamboo flowering affected areas as relief fund (Table I(E Pao, 8 Nov., 2009)
Socio-economic implication of charcoal production
Charcoal production is one of the primary causes of deforestation leading to land degradation in areas involved in the business.
Deforestation is a serious problem leading to global warming and its effects on climatic change. Charcoal enterprise is adopted to meet some socio-economic benefits and energy needs of the people. Therefore, its production would not stop because available alternatives are limited and expensive (Jamala et. al.,2013).
Whereas bamboo charcoal production offers huge economic potentials that can improve the livelihood of the rural poor. Pit method charcoal is a technic for production of charcoal which requires practically no investment except the labour cost, requires less technical knowledge for operation and the activity can be taken up as an individual household activity with production done close to the site of the raw material (NBDA, May 4, 2011).
Making bamboo charcoal in miniature pits.
Small pits or holes up to a cubic meter or so are useful for producing small amounts of bamboo charcoal from slash bamboos which are going to flower.
The method is employed at the village level but is usually too low in productivity to supply large amounts commercially. To burn bamboo charcoal this way, a fire is first started in the Act, the fire continuing to burn steadily.
A layer of bamboo leaves about 20cm thick is placed over the bamboo full then earth about 20cm thick shoveled on. The pit is left to complete carbonization and can be opened in two days or less. Water may be needed to prevent ignition when the pit is unloaded. Charcoal is not uniform in quality if small bamboo pieces are used.
According to conservator of Forest (Bamboo), Government of Manipur almost 70 to 80 percent of the whole bamboo belts spread across the four districts have flowered and most of them have matured into fruits. Further, about 80 percent of the flowering bamboo are Mouviwaa(Melocanabaccifera) species. After a bamboo plant has flowered, it will dry up and its fruit would ultimately fall on the ground which then is eaten by rodents (The Sangai Express, 22 April, 2007).
Over Rs. 16 crores were given from the state relief fund to the victims of bamboo flowering areas. The relief funds were given under the Relief and Disaster Management Department, Government of Manipur.
An amount of Rs. 7,22,83,574 was given to the DC of Churachandpur as relief fund for the district which has destructive area of 1,39,20,609 hectares affecting 14,307 households. A sum of Rs. 6,76,88,570 was given to the DC Tamenglong district. The district has an affected area of 1,35,04,165 hectares and 13,879 households.
Chandel DC was given an amount of Rs. 2,67,27,972 for the affected area of 49,25,226 hectares with 5,062 households Table I (The Sangai Express, 8 Nov., 2008).
Deforestation is a serious problem, leading to global warming. Charcoal production from wood is one of the primary causes of deforestation leading to land degradation in areas involved in the business. The business is associated with the felling of both mature and nearly mature trees. Therefore, the business world must wake up to specially to mitigate the effect of global climatic change (Jamala et.al., 2013). Bamboo charcoal is a viable, clean and sustainable alternative to fuel wood and may be a key to combating soil degradation and massive deforestation as well as menace from bamboo flowering. Thus, bamboo charcoal production offers huge economic potentials that can improve the livelihood of rural poor (NBDA, May 4, 2011).
Bamboo charcoal could provide an excellent alternative to hardwood charcoal production as bamboo biomass production is much greater and considerably more sustainable (CIFOR cited by Kovacevic, 2011). Thus, replacing fuel wood with bamboo may help to compel bamboo flowering and deforestation in Manipur.
The First Writer is Retd. Professor (HAG) , Life Sciences, Manipur University and co-founder of Nibiaa Consultancy Pvt.Ltd and the second writer is Managing Director and Co-Founder of Nibiaa Consultancy Pvt.Ltd. Singjamei, Imphal – 795 008, Manipur