The minister declared Bamboo as Minor Forest Produce and

The Indian Forest
(Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in Lok Sabha on December 20 and Rajya Sabha
by voice vote on December 27, 2017. This bill has amended the Indian Forest
Act, 1927 to exclude Bamboo from the definition of trees in this law.

Contents

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·       
Bamboo as Minor Forest Produce: The conflict of laws

·       
The Recent Amendment

·       
Bamboo: Current Legislative Position

·       
Implications

Bamboo as Minor
Forest Produce: The conflict of laws

There are two laws
that govern Bamboo grown in forests and non-forest lands in India viz. Indian
Forest Rights Act, 1927 and the Forests Rights Act, 2006. The issues related to
Bamboo revolve around these two questions:

Indian Forest
Rights Act, 1927 defines ‘forest produce’ as anything that is found or brought
from the forests such as timber, bark, charcoal etc. It also included plants
not being trees including grass, creepers, reeds and moss etc. However, it does
not define Minor Forest Produce. Under this law, Bamboo was treated as a tree,
irrespective of where it grows, since British era. This law kept Bamboo under
the control of the forest department.

The Scheduled
Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006 or Forests Rights Act,
2006 defined Minor Forest Produce as everything
valuable that is not timber.  The 2006 act recognized the rights
of the traditional forest dwellers to live in and cultivate forests that were
occupied before 2005. It defined forest rights as inclusive of ‘Right of
ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce, which
have traditionally been collected within or
outside village boundaries. In this act, Bamboo was placed among
Minor Forest Produce. Thus, there was a conflict of laws because on one hand,
Bamboo was a MFP while on other hand; Bamboo was to be administered by Forest
Department. There was a need and demand to remove the Bamboo from list of trees
in the Indian Forest Act, 1927 to settle this conflict. However, the conflict
was settled other way in 2011, when then environment minister declared Bamboo
as Minor Forest Produce and directed the states to further direct their forest
departments about the forest dwellers’ rights over Bamboo. However, at that
time, the Indian Forest Act was not amended.

The Recent
Amendment

The recent
amendment was needed to make things further clear with respect to cultivation
of land on “Non-forest lands”. Scientifically, Bamboo belongs to Grass family
(Poaecae ) but the Indian Forest Act kept it as a tree along with Palms,
Stumps, Brush-wood and Canes. So anyone growing and felling Bamboo on
non-forest land would need a permit for intra-state trade and inter-state
transit. Some states have exempted such permits for intra-state trade but then
the permit requirement for inter-state transit was a big hardship that
discouraged farmers to grow bamboo on non-forest land. The recent amendment has
done away this impediment of the cultivation of bamboos by farmers on their
land.

Bamboo: Current
Legislative Position

With the above
mentioned changes, the current position of Bamboo is as follows:

·       
On forest land, Bamboo is within the purview of Indian Forests Act, but
has now status of Minor Forest Produce, and traditional forest dwellers
exercise full rights on their cultivation and harvesting.

·       
On non-forest land, Bamboo is out of purview of Indian Forests Act, and
the farmers can grow it, harvest it, trade it without permits.

Implications

These changes will
help in the following ways:

·       
Cultivation of Bamboo on non-forest land will help in enhancing the
agricultural income of farmers and tribal’s, especially in North East and
Central India.

·       
Wood-based industries will derive greater benefits as they can now start
their own bamboo plantations or engage farmers to grow the resource for them.
Also it will give a fillip to biofuel and handicrafts industry.

·       
This will now help cultivate waste land and encourage farmers and others
to take up plantation of suitable bamboo on degraded land, in addition to
plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under the agro-forestry
mission.

The current demand
of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tones. Though the country has 19%
share of the world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the
sector is only 6%. At present, it imports timber and allied products, such as
pulp, paper, and furniture. In 2015, it imported about 18.01 million cubic
meters of timber and allied products worth 43,000 crore. The amendment will
help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from
domestic production.