15 November 2006

Bamboo: an alternative to wood

Bhutan has one of the highest per capita consumption of fuel wood in the world. The demand for fuel wood is about 505,000 cubic metres annually while the production was about 127,741 cubic metres according to forestry officials. The demand for commercial timber had also increased from 35,595 cubic metres in 1996 to 65,538 cubic metres in 2002. Wood is used mainly in house construction, furniture, flag posts, firewood, paper-making and for cremation.

The pressure on the forests was therefore enormous and would continue to grow with increasing population and more development activities. Using bamboo as an alternative to wood wherever possible could considerably reduce the pressure on the forests say officials of Forestry Development Corporation Limited (FDCL).

“Bamboo is a fast growing grass that can be harvested in a very short span of three to five years in comparison to timber that takes 20 to 80 years,” said managing director of FDCL, Karma Dukpa. “Harvesting does not kill the bamboo plant.”

“In terms of sustaining the environment, bamboo absorbs relatively more carbon-dioxide, releases 35 percent more oxygen and multiplies faster than trees”. Bamboo cultivation, FDCL officials say, would also create employment and generate income for rural communities.

Bamboo and cane products comprise between 70 to 80 percent of the income for residents of Bjoka village and between 20 to 30 percent for the Phankhar and Ngangla farmers. “Traditionally, bamboo is used as a fuel wood and the best option is to convert it into charcoal. In China bamboo is used as a source of charcoal production”, said Gyem Tshering, Deptuty Managing Director of FDCL.

The corporation has started bamboo plantation on 15 hectares of land in the east to provide back up service and training for the farmers to come up with bamboo products. There are also plans to introduce bamboo charcoal. This is expected to reduce consumption of firewood for bukharis, funerals and mass cooking in the armed forces and institutions.

The fibre of bamboo could also be introduced to the papermaking units in Bhutan, which still rely heavily on the Daphne plant and tree pulp, said an official of FDCL.

With a proper technology, bamboo could also be considered to replace wooden floorings and steel rods in the current construction boom in Bhutan. In other countries, modern companies are attempting to popularise bamboo flooring and are already substituting steel reinforcing rods with bamboo in concrete construction. Developing the local bamboo industry can highly contribute to a reduction in Bhutan’s wood consumption.

Source: kuenselonline.com Oct. 16, 2006.

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