And the Bamboo Flowers in the Indian Forests
This is an interesting and enlightening series – the result of a study on the devastating impact of the Pulp and Paper Industry (PPI) on tropical forests in India and the role of the state in promoting them.
Spanning nine states – Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland and Assam. The study makes a state-wise analysis of forests and primarily concentrates on two important aspects – the reasons for the death of the bamboo forests and the reasons why exotics were imposed on a massive scale on natural forests.
A thriving economy revolves around bamboo. While the timber industry is a known destroyer of forests, the role of the Pulp and Paper Industry (PPI), which consumes huge amounts of bamboo is relatively unaccounted for. The study, published over two volumes, takes the reader through the history of forests in India and begins by analysing the reasons for the richness and complexity of the forest ecosystems in the country and its vulnerability.
The books look at how the European powers, and chiefly the British, ravaged the forests for timber and ousted forest-dwellers from their homes. It covers the legacy of forestry they left behind, the rising power of the Indian merchant class in the 20th century and their ability to manipulate the state policies and structure for their benefit. The book reproduces strong evidence with facts and figures on the industry, the encroachment and degradation of pristine forests. It is a hard-hitting study that takes into account every single forest-based pulp and paper unit under production between 1991 and 1994 and evaluates the felling practices of the PPI in its lease areas i.e. bamboo forests.
The author, Manorama Suvur concludes that in practically every instance, the felling practices employed by the industry were erroneous. Industry data indicates that the bamboo flowered gregariously, resulting in the death of bamboo forests in the catchment areas of every one of the PPI units. The author feels that this cannot be a coincidence and says that the flowering of bamboo is a defensive mechanism by a species to survive through seeding and dispersal of the seed. The seeds, enriched through cross-pollination, scatter and the old clumps die to make way for the new.
The project data indicates that the natural, psychological lifecycle of the bamboo was repeatedly broken by the PPI whose combination of overfelling and wrong felling practices gave rise to gregarious flowering and death. Apart from the impact of the PPI on bamboo forests, the clear felling of natural forest for planting exotic species such as eucalyptus and the concerns of foresters, farmers and tribals regarding plantations are also discussed. Eucalyptus, while ideal for Australian conditions, is hardly suitable in India and its cellulose content is also suspect.
The study also explores the role of the FAO and other international organisations such as the World Bank in forestry operations and their ecological consequences. The availability of alternate raw materials that are pollutant-free is also highlighted. This series showcases a bold study on the impact of the PPI and makes recommendations to ensure that more pristine forests are not degraded.
By Manorama Suvur, Published by: Manohar Publishers and Distributors, Hardcover; Price: Rs. 1,500/- (set)