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Forest dept nod not needed for cutting, transport of bamboo

The Times Of India, New Delhi, 28th November, 2014

NAGPUR: Maharashtra has finally decided to liberate bamboo from strict restrictions of the forest department purview. A new policy initiative was approved by the state cabinet at its meeting in Mumbai on Thursday. One of the major highlights would do undo curbs on growing, cutting and transport of specified bamboo species from private plantations.
Another major decision taken was that the state's social forestry department would be merged with the forest department.
While the draft of the policy was not available, top sources in the forest ministry indicated that the bamboo sector, which has the potential to grow into a huge modern industry with large scale employment avenues, would be thrown open to the private sector. Till now, transit permits (TP) issued by the forest department were a must, without which even bamboo grown on private land could not be cut and transported.
Now, the forest department would not insist on these for bamboo on farmland, which are different from those naturally grown in forests. If the TP restriction is relaxed, farmers, especially in Vidarbha, can take up bamboo cultivation and ensure assured annual incomes. They can earn through bamboo far more than traditional cash crops like cotton, soyabean and paddy in this region, which have low and uncertain yields because of heavy dependency on rainfall in the absence of irrigation.
The cabinet decision taken on Thursday says a bamboo training centre would be set up at Chichpalli in Chandrapur district at a cost of Rs 11.12 crore. It would teach how to plant bamboo and grow it for industrial applications, besides training for commercial use of bamboo. It would be headed by a director with a staff of 22.
In another decision, registration of artisans of 'burad' community, who make several goods from bamboo traditionally, would be restarted, A 'burad' family would be entitled to 1,500 bamboos per year at subsidized rate. Currently, there are only 7,900 burad families on the list that was closed on August 30, 1997. It would be reopened after 14 years.
In yet another significant decision, the forest rangers' college at Chandrapur would be upgraded and renamed as Forest Academy of Administration, Development and Management. It will be entitled to 100% grants from the government. Nine new posts are to be created and funds are to be provided for new buildings and infrastructure. The first of its kind academy would be run on the lines of the academy at Dehradun.
Welcoming the move, bamboo activist and president of VEDHA Sunil Joshi said, "The cabinet gave approval would go a long way in preparing grounds for a full-fledged bamboo promotion policy as per guidelines issued by the National Bamboo Mission set up in 2006. What we want is total freedom and full support for setting up of modern bamboo industry that will provide alternative to timber," said Joshi.
Welcoming the initiative taken by the government, another bamboo lobbyist Pratap Goswami, said, "Eco-friendly bamboo growing is labour intensive and needs proper promotion, We are waiting for final policy and hope it addresses all concerns of the stakeholders."
A policy would not be of any use if it does not provide for a state development agency for bamboo promotion and a clear and friendly funding policy. Only that can unleash the true potential of the magic grass," said Goswami.