MoEF’s March 2011 direction to treat bamboo as a ‘Minor Forest Produce’ - had it gone astray? http://indiaenvironmentportal.org

The 21st March 2011 letter of the Union Minister for Environment & Forests requested Chief Ministers to direct State Forest Departments to treat bamboo as a Minor Forest Produce and to respect the right accrued to communities as per the Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest rights) Act, 2006 (FRA). Bamboo has always been treated as a ‘Minor Forest Produce (MFP)’ in forestry. The term ‘Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP)’ in place of MFP was coined much later in recognition to the growing appreciation of importance and value of these forest products.

In most states harvest of NTFP including bamboo is allowed free to Joint Forest Management (JFM) Communities as one of the usufructs; and for forest dwellers vested with rights under the FRA there cannot be any less freedom in this respect. The problem in case of bamboo actually arise when it requires transportation out of the Forest Beat; because as per the Indian Forest Act, 1927, ‘Tree’ includes bamboo and a ‘fallen’ or ‘felled’ bamboo is legally ‘timber’, requiring transit pass. Treating bamboo as MFP as directed by the MoEF does not address this problem. The State Governments may instead utilize the powers vested with them under the Indian Forest Act to exempt transit pass requirement for bamboo selectively to promote intensive private bamboo farming; without waiting for the Govt. of India to declare, ‘Bamboo is not a tree.’ And, that in any case is most unlikely as the FAO definition of tree includes bamboo.

MoEF letter. http://indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/CM-AP.pdf

Dear Achintyada, This post is

Dear Achintyada,

This post is quite technical can you please explain what will be the implications of this law?
As per my understanding in the state the tribals are allowed to cut bamboo and sell, while transporting it out of the forest, the forest dept charges a nominal fee just to keep an account of the quantity of bamboo being cut.
From what I have heard in the last 10 years huge amount area producing bamboo has been cleaned to grow rubber which resulted in high appreciation of bamboo prices.
Tripura was blessed with wide variety of bamboo species few of which are exclusive to Tripura only, now most of them are now facing extinction threat.

Was this law passed to change the situation?

Regards,
Som

The Bamboo case

My dear Som,
I am indeed grateful for your comments. The post appeared too technical not because it was so, but because it was not presented properly. Let me try now.
The 21st March 2011 advice from the MoEF to treat bamboo as a Minor Forest Produce (MFP) was evidently to remove obstacles in harvest, consumption and sale of bamboo by individual forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers and forest communities vested with rights to forestland under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA). FRA vests clear right of ownership on MFP to patta holders with the right to access, collect, use or to sell them. So, where was the catch?
My understanding from experience with forests managed in Joint Forest Management (JFM) mode in Tripura, where JFM communities manage forest resources according to agreed micro-plans, forest royalty is not charged for harvest and use of bamboo by JFM community.Bamboo, a MFP/NTFP, is allowed free by the state as a part of usufructs in lieu of participation of JFM communities with the forest Department in protection and management of JFM project area.
Unfortunately, whenever harvested bamboo sold by the JFM communities were to be transported beyond the Beat Jurisdiction, the Forest Department charged royalty before issue of transit pass not from the JFM community but from the traders. But, that ultimately adversely affected the JFM community as traders would count the royalty payable while negotiating purchase from them. That the same thing may recur in case of bamboo in patta land under FRA might have necessiated the March 2011 letter of the Union Forest & Env. Minister. Unortunate indeed that the missive missed the goal. It was a legal issue and legal solution was called for.
My Friend, I request you now to see some relevant provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 as given below:
1. Section 2 (4) (a) of the Act provides that “forest- produce" includes timber, whether found in, or brought from, a forest or not.
2. Section 2 (7) provides that ‘tree’ includes palms, bamboos, etc.
3. Section 2 (6) provides that ‘timber’ includes trees when they have fallen or have been felled, and all wood whether cut up or fashioned or hollowed out for any purpose or not
4. Section 41 (1) of the Act provides power to make rules to regulate transit of forest produce and the control of all rivers and their banks as regard the floating of timber, as well as the control of all timber and other forest- produce in transit by land or water, is vested in the State Government, and it may make rules to regulate the transit of all timber and other forest- produce.
5. Section 41 (3) provides that the State Government may direct that any rule made under this section shall not apply to any specified class of timber or other forest- produce or to any specified local area.

It will be clear that bamoo is legally a tree and fallen or felled bamboo is timber, for which Transit pass is mandatory for transportation beyond the Forest Beat of origin. My point was that the MoEF could advise the States to consider issue of direction (notification under the Act) to exempt bamboo from transit regulation under Section 41 (3) of the Indian Forest Act; and my take is the NE states, the bamboo land of India, should act right away on their own to generate enhanced interest in intensive commercial cultivation of bamboo amongst JFM Committes as well as private growers.

As of now bamboo is allowed free, subject to management for sustained yield, to JFM communities as part of a package of usufructs as per MoU between organized rural communities and the State as per Government Resolution on JFM.

As regards the present status of bamboo, I have my concerns too. Muli had died out in course of its gregarious flowering; and it should be regenerating with renewed vigour from the large fruits full of food for the juveniles. But, with more than a million of stray cattle freely grazing in the forests of Tripura and the mad rush for rubber, Muli’s future may not be as good. There may not have been any species loss in bamboo as such; but I suspect that the rare climbing bamboo – Wadu (Melocalamus compactiflorus)- of Phuldangshei in Jampui hills has become rarer. You get the best of the Mizo hooded caps from Wadu.

There is no doubt that rubber is pushing out bamboo, but I am sure, in a level playing ground our bamboos could hold their ground as well. No more at this stage.
Bye

The Bamboo case

My dear Som,
I am indeed grateful for your comments. The post appeared too technical not because it was so, but because it was not presented properly. Let me try now.
The 21st March 2011 advice from the Union MoEF to treat bamboo as a Minor Forest Produce (MFP) was evidently to remove obstacles in harvest, consumption and sale of bamboo by individual forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers and forest communities vested with rights to forestland under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA). FRA vests clear right of ownership on MFP to patta holders with the right to access, collect, use or to sell them. So, where was the catch?
My understanding from experience with forests managed in Joint Forest Management (JFM) mode in Tripura, where JFM communities manage forest resources according to agreed micro-plans, forest royalty is not charged for harvest and use of bamboo by JFM community.Bamboo, a MFP/NTFP, is allowed free by the state as a part of usufructs in lieu of participation of JFM communities with the forest Department in protection and management of JFM project area.
Unfortunately, whenever harvested bamboo sold by the JFM communities were to be transported beyond the Beat Jurisdiction, the Forest Department charged royalty before issue of transit pass not from the JFM community but from the traders. But, that ultimately adversely affected the JFM community as traders would count the royalty payable while negotiating purchase from them. That the same thing may recur in case of bamboo in patta land under FRA might have necessiated the March 2011 letter of the Union Forest & Env. Minister. Unortunate indeed that the missive missed the goal. It was a legal issue and legal solution was called for.
My Friend, I request you now to at some relevant provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 as given below:
1. Section 2 (4) (a) of the Act provides that “forest- produce" includes timber, whether found in, or brought from, a forest or not.
2. Section 2 (7) provides that ‘tree’ includes palms, bamboos, etc.
3. Section 2 (6) provides that ‘timber’ includes trees when they have fallen or have been felled, and all wood whether cut up or fashioned or hollowed out for any purpose or not
4. Section 41 (1) of the Act provides power to make rules to regulate transit of forest produce and the control of all rivers and their banks as regard the floating of timber, as well as the control of all timber and other forest- produce in transit by land or water, is vested in the State Government, and it may make rules to regulate the transit of all timber and other forest- produce.
5. Section 41 (3) provides that the State Government may direct that any rule made under this section shall not apply to any specified class of timber or other forest- produce or to any specified local area.

It will be clear that bamoo is legally a tree and fallen or felled bamboo is timber, for which Transit pass is mandatory for transportation beyond the Forest Beat of origin. My point was that the MoEF could advise the States to consider issue of direction (notification under the Act) to exempt bamboo from transit regulation under Section 41 (3) of the Indian Forest Act; and my take is the NE states, the bamboo land of India, should act right away on their own to generate enhanced interest in intensive commercial cultivation of bamboo amongst JFM Committes as well as private growers.

As of now bamboo is allowed free, subject to management for sustained yield, to JFM communities as part of a package of usufructs as per MoU between organized rural communities and the State as per Government Resolution on JFM.

As regards the present status of bamboo, I have my concerns too. Muli had died out in course of its gregarious flowering; and it should be regenerating with renewed vigour from the large fruits full of food for the juveniles. But, with more than a million of stray cattle freely grazing in the forests of Tripura and the mad rush for rubber, Muli’s future may not be as good. There may not have been any species loss in bamboo as such; but I suspect that the rare climbing bamboo – Wadu (Melocalamus compactiflorus)- of Phuldangshei in Jampui hills has become rarer. You get the best of the Mizo hooded caps from Wadu.

There is no doubt that rubber is pushing out bamboo, but I am sure, given a level playing ground our bamboos could hold their ground as well. No more at this stage.
Bye

Thanks

Dear AchintyaDa,

Thanks for such a detailed answer. The answer is actually bigger than the post itself, it has helped me in getting a clearer picture of the laws realted to Bamboo.
Can you throw some light on what is the potential of commercial bamboo plantation in Tripura? Who are the prospective buyers for it?
I for a brief period explored opportunities related to bamboo products produced in tripura to start my venture but didn't find the situation very encouraging, so I backed off.
But my interest in bamboo still remains, bamboo & its products are unique to Tripura, we should try to preserve it.

Warm Reagrds,
Som

IXA's picture

Good question

Wish to get the clarification based on the previous question.