Search This Blog

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bamboo - A Disaster Waiting to Happen!

Bamboo - A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Last weekend I was driving back from Coimbatore to Bangalore after a round of golf. Instead of the regular highway, I took a detour – had lunch at Ooty and drove through the Nilagiri Biosphere that includes Madhumalai on Tamil Nadu side of the border and Bandipur in Karnataka. Of course Wynad in Kerala lay to the west and out of my route.
Even though the forests in each of these states are named differently, they are one singular entity. The life which depends on the forest doesn’t recognize the borders. But the departments that report to the authorities in Madras and Bangalore manage their territories differently, resulting in a striking difference in their appearance.
Madumalai - No Bamboo in sight
It was a rude shock to the eyes looking at the profusion of Bamboo on the Karnataka side.
You may ask, “Why should it shock you? Bamboo is a species that grows wild in the forests and why should anyone try to interfere with natural selection?”
Here, let me explain. If the principle of natural selection has to run its course, there won’t be any forests left in any part of India.  According to 2010 census, there are 3.5 humans living in every hectare of Indian Territory; and if you go back a hundred years, it was the other way around – one human being per every 3.5 hectares. Without governmental intervention, there would have been a complete wipe out of forest cover in India.
Let me throw some statistics at you… Present forest cover is around 20% of the total land in India. This includes any small bit of land – a hectare or more – with a minimum of 10% tree cover. The forests as we know that host diverse wild life – like the Tiger Reserves – constitute less than 3% of the land. The size and the fact that huge distances exist between these bits of thick forest negate their sustenance if they are left without positive intervention.
Bandipur - Unculled Bamboo
Our so called populist environment groups that advocate non interference of the government agencies and the involvement of local people in the management of forests only play into the grasping hands of local interest groups. 
Even the movements like Chipko, though outwardly conservationist, only boil down to the protection of local peoples’ rights to exploit the forests.
On the other hand, the bureaucracy has lost its values and the official is hand in glove with the unscrupulous politician businessmen nexus exploiting the land with no concern for conservation. 
But bureaucracy is a necessary evil. If we have to preserve our nature’s diversity for the future generations, a proactive bureaucracy is the only resort.
Bandipur - Bamboo Everywhere 
Now, let me get back to Bamboo.
Karnataka has a gory history of uncontrolled forest fires, especially in recent past. I don’t want to get into the debate now about the agencies that triggered these. 
Normally, dry Bamboo rustling in the pre-monsoon wind has been the most import natural trigger of forest fires. Once the fire is started, Bamboo is a sustaining torch that burns long and strong. The worst is yet to come. Bamboo shoot - with its air chambers - is a natural explosive with each blast carrying the embers across a radius of 300 meters, and more with the assistance of hard blowing summer wind.
Any proactive forest department would try and control the proliferation of Bamboo. It has been a practice since the beginning of the century.
While the department and the politicians that control wait for some paper or pulp manufacturer to pay them suitable bribes before culling the Bamboo, another series of disasters are waiting to happen.  Some right thinking bureaucrats should take initiative and avert the calamity. 
Let's see....

1 comment:

  1. Bamboosa arundanatia is flowering in Bandipur and Nagarahole. This is the year of gregarious flowering. The Wilson manual on forestry clearly states that the moment the rangers/ conservators notice sporadic flowering, which takes place a year before, they must immediately call for tenders for the removal of dead bamboo after the seed drops following the gregarious flowering. It is a practice or rather a mandate to the foresters in South India. The department can not claim ignorance. If they dont have the guts to face these half-baked environmentalists and expose the heritage to natural disaster, they may as well quit their posts to some right thinking officers. The loss of flora and fauna as a consequence of uncontrolled wild fires is imminent.
    Take notice....