An enduring, versatile and highly renewable resource bamboo is increasingly being regarded as a panacea for various economic and ecological problems alike. It is the fastest growing woody plant on the planet. Some species grow at the rate of a meter/ day. Bamboo's unique characteristics enable it's myriad applications which span both traditional subsistence and contemporary industrial uses. Bamboo is used in cultures across the world with an estimated 2.5 billion people depending on bamboo for their varied functional and livelihood uses, while it houses at least a billion people (in India, Ecaudor)(Oberoi and Lepcha, 2004). Its ubiquitous nature touches the lives of an estimated 60% people in the world. It has about 1500 traditional uses, from food, medicine to village industry. Although, it has been termed as the poor man's timber, more recently it has made its way to the rich man's drawing room. Its contemporary applications have made it a favoured substitute for fast depleting wood and other more expensive materials. A range of new products previously made from wood are now being made from bamboo and this list is fast expanding.

Bamboo grows 3 times faster and can be harvested 4 times as often as Eucalyptus. It yields 6 times more cellulose than fast growing trees. Future demand for wood in Asia will outstrip supply, speeding up destruction of rainforests. Bamboo is a viable alternative.

Also, with world-wide concern over global warming escalating, the likely contribution of bamboo to the global accounting of carbon sequestration can be significant.

An enduring, versatile and highly renewable resource bamboo is increasingly being regarded as a panacea for various economic and ecological problems alike. It is the fastest growing woody plant on the planet. Some species grow at the rate of a meter/ day. Bamboo's unique characteristics enable it's myriad applications which span both traditional subsistence and contemporary industrial uses. Bamboo is used in cultures across the world with an estimated 2.5 billion people depending on bamboo for their varied functional and livelihood uses, while it houses at least a billion people (in India, Ecaudor)(Oberoi and Lepcha, 2004). Its ubiquitous nature touches the lives of an estimated 60% people in the world. It has about 1500 traditional uses, from food, medicine to village industry. Although, it has been termed as the poor man's timber, more recently it has made its way to the rich man's drawing room. Its contemporary applications have made it a favoured substitute for fast depleting wood and other more expensive materials. A range of new products previously made from wood are now being made from bamboo and this list is fast expanding.

Initial Rationale behind Bamboo Development:

  1. In open forests it can be grown to improve the quality of the forests.
  2. Planting it near river valleys can prevent soil erosion.
  3. Once planted its parts can be harvested from the 7th to 50th year.
  4. Bamboo is one of the most useful species for planting on Civil/ Community/ Van Panchayat forests and even private fallow lands as it could meet hundreds of rural requirements.

Myriad Uses of Bamboo:

Economic: Bamboo based development can provide a wide-range of livelihood opportunities to the rural poor at all levels of skill from plantation and handicrafts, to industrial and semi-industrial ventures. In addition to direct employment, self-employment is generated through the management and transportation of bamboo and in bamboo- based cottage industries. Apart from creating jobs, bamboo based industries enhance the incomes and living standards of the people employed. Also bamboo consumes less energy in processing, thereby lowering the production cost and being more economically advantageous.

Social: Bamboo plantations on private and common lands can be a source of social security to rural households, especially given the rising market price of bamboo. In addition a variety of household utility and craft articles, baskets, boats, carts, fishing rods, nets and traps, water pipes, medicine and food can be made out of bamboo.

Edible: Edible bamboo has been a part of human diet for centuries. Bamboo shoots are consumed as pickle or vegetable and more recently have become an international delicacy. Rich in fiber, protein and minerals, processed bamboo shoots can be a source of nutritional security to an estimated 2 billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America (7th World Bamboo Congress report, March 2004). Bamboo shoot processing units are also poised to become lucrative ventures given the growing demand. Bamboo oil and bamboo vinegar are some of the other edible products that can be extracted from this green gold.

Ecological: Research has shown that bamboo has an extensive underground root and rhizome system that effectively binds the top one-foot of soil which is critical for soil health. A study estimated that a single bamboo plant can bind up to 6 m3 of soil, thereby saving top-soil, preventing land-slides, averting floods and also preventing surface run offs while recharging springs (Oberoi and Lepcha,2004). This makes bamboo an important resource in water-shed management through soil and water conservation. Bamboo's ability to grow in a wide variety of soils from marginal to semi-arid, under low rainfall make it perfect for rehabilitation of degraded lands. Also while conserving the soil, it manages sub-terrainian water flows. Further because bamboos can yield more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees it is very effective in sequestering carbon and thereby offering protection against the ultra violet rays of the sun and working as a natural environmental cleansing system. New ways to apply bamboo for environment repair are constantly being discovered, the most recent being its use in cleaning up sewage (Oberoi and Lepcha, 2004). Finally, bamboo provides shelter and food to pandas, elephants and a host of other wild animals and birds.

Infrastructural/Physical: Use of bamboo and bamboo composites for building of bridges; houses, sheds, furniture and other infrastructural uses is also in practice. Due to its high tensile strength and flexibility bamboo structures have been found to be earth-quake resistant and so their use is particularly advocated for building houses and community shelters in high seismic zones. More recently, high strength fiber composites and several more new generation bamboo products have been developed. In many parts of India, mature bamboo reinforced concrete is also being used for construction after its proper seasoning and treatment. Bamboo can also be moulded into beautiful furniture which is ecological and low cost though less durable.

Medicinal: Wild species used in traditional medicine form the basis of primary health care for 80% people in developing countries. Silicic acid, found in the culms of some bamboo species have been used to make concoctions to treat dysentery for centuries. Now silicic acid is produced synthetically and being used world-wide for stomach ailments. The sap of some bamboos is a potential health drink and skin moisturizer.

Wood substitute: Bamboo is not just an ideal wood substitute but in many ways as an alternative material it transcends wood. It comes pre-finished by nature and can be used without much processing. Tests on bamboo panel boards have revealed that bamboo is stronger than hardwood such as oak or beach (Oberoi and Lepcha, 2004). It is also known to be a good insulator.

Energy/Fuel: Bamboo charcoal is not uncommon in several countries including China and Japan. Bamboo biomass is a potential alternative source of bio-energy and opportunity to pioneer industrial usage through gasification to produce electricity. Even bamboo processing 'waste' is an excellent source material for high grade charcoal and activated carbon.

Agricultural: The leaves of several bamboo species are used as fodder for cattle and also in farm yard manure. Moreover several agricultural implements for tilling and managing fields, winnowing trays for cleaning grains and baskets for storage and transport of food grains are all made from bamboo.

Textiles/ Fabric: Bamboo fabric is completely biodegradable and has been praised in the textile world as a fabric that will overtake cotton in just a short while. Bamboo also has many antibacterial qualities, which the bamboo fabric is able to retain, even through multiple washings. This helps to reduce bacteria that thrive on clothing and cause unpleasant odors. Today any fabric that claims to be anti-microbial has most definitely had a chemical treatment applied to the textile or into the fiber itself. Bamboo fiber based fabrics are naturally anti-microbial and requires no harmful chemicals. In addition, bamboo fabric has insulating properties and will keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The versatility of bamboo fabric makes it an excellent choice for clothing designers exploring alternative textiles, and in addition, the fabric is able to take bright dye colors well, drape smoothly, and star in a variety of roles from knit shirts to woven skirts.



Ringal (Hill Bamboo)

Another group of bamboo- A.falconerii (Dev Ringal), A.falcata (Gol Rinagl) A.jaunsarensis (Jamura Ringal) and Thamnocalamus spathiflora (Tham Ringal) occur throughout the temperate forest of the State. Ringal grows on steep mountain slopes, at an elevation of 1800-2400m in the Garhwal and Kumaon Hills. They generally grow as the under-story of oak and rhododendron forests. Ringal is distributed over 66,000 ha in different forest divisions of Uttarakhand. They are usually tufted, gregarious with erect small culms which are conical in shape. The culms attain an average height of 12ft with a diameter of 10-20 mm, with internodes approx. 20 cm apart. The wall thickness varies from 3-4 mm. In general, the leaf is 10 cm long and 1.2 cm broad. The average flowering cycle is about 30 years. The first crop of Ringal begins to emerge around August to September and from February to March it becomes flexible, strong and ready to use. People in the higher altitudes use it in this form to make thatches and ropes. Culms are used for weaving mats and baskets and leaves are used as fodder.

Natural Fiber


Natural Fiber

Fibers of both plant and animal origins have been utilized since the beginning of human civilization. They have been used to provide shelter and clothing to shield us against the extremities of nature and paper to record history. A host of household utility items like baskets, sacks, ropes, and rugs have also been made through them as is still done in rural areas of the developing world. In contemporary times, natural fibers form an important component of the clothing and home textiles and are increasingly being used in industrial applications which range from paper and packaging to composite materials used in automobile parts. In several developing countries, the proceeds from the sale and export of natural fibers contributes significantly to the income and food security of marginal farmers and others in the field of processing and marketing natural fiber.

The widespread use of synthetic fibers increased since the 1960s, caused a corresponding decline in the market share of natural fibers. Producers and processors in the labour intensive natural fibers sector had to face up to the challenge of competing with cheaper and more durable synthetic fibers.

However the shortcomings of highly consumerist and inorganic lifestyles of the industrialized nations have loomed large with the manifestation of phenomenon like ozone layer depletion and global-warming. This has resulted in the advent of a more environment sensitive regime in the west, which calls for a global shift towards renewable resources and clean, green technologies and products. Natural fibers are a significant aspect of this paradigm shift.

Status of Natural Fibers in Uttarakhand:

There are around 95 different kinds of plant origin fibers available in the whole of Uttarakhand. Of this bunch, only a few are found to grow in abundance and are linked intrinsically to the tribal communities as part of the living craft cultures. While some level of economic activity is being undertaken centered on these fibers, pilot case studies have demonstrated the potential for industrialization and commercialization of this sector. Most prominent fibre species on which different institutions, NGOs have been working are Rambans (Agave cantala), Bhimal (Grewia optiva), Industrial Hemp, (Cannabis sativa L.), Stinging Nettle (Gerardinia diversifolia), etc.

Hemp: (Cannabis sativa L.)

Hemp is a commonly used term for variety of products which include fibre, oil and seed. Hemp is refined into products like hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp and fuel. Industrial cannabis (industrial hemp) comprises a number of varieties of Cannabis sativa L. that are intended for agricultural and industrial purposes. Industrial cannabis is characterized by low THC content and high cannabidiol (CBD) content. THC is the primary psychoactive compound produced by cannabis and non psychoactive CBD is the other most common naturally occurring cannabinoil. Oilseed and fibre varieties of cannabis approved for industrial hemp production produce only minute amounts of these psychoactive drugs not enough for any physical or psychological effect. Typically hemp contains below 0.3 per cent THC while cultivation of cannabis grow for recreational use can contain anywhere from 2 per cent to over 20 per cent. Therefore it is necessary to estimate THC content of cannabis plant to make it suitable for industrial uses. Industrial Hemp has traditionally been cultivated in villages of Uttarakhand for household purpose. According to the information collected during field research conducted by UBFDB, the villagers specify that there are two types of plants which grow from the same seed; one from which seeds are collected for spices and leaves are utilized for drugs extraction whereas the other plant is used for flowers and fibres. However, this has been observed that fibres are extracted from both the plants. It is maintained that the Hemp species growing for domestic purpose consists less % of narcotics.

Policy on Legalisation of Hemp in Uttarakhand:

As per the UP Excise Act, 1910, the plantation of Hemp was not prohibited in British Kumaon and Garhwal districts, which includes all of Kumaon except district Udhamsinghnagar and all of Garhwal except Uttarkashi, Tehri and Haridwar districts. As a fruition of UBFDB's advocacy efforts and as also a validation of the perpetuation of this law, in May 2005 the Excise Department issued a Government order (GO no. 783/ XXIII/61/aab/31st May 2005) which allows exclusive procurement rights to UBFDB, but lack of clear cut mechanism the order could not come in force due to the narcotic connotations associated with this resource. Uttarakhand can capitalize on this legal privilege to grow and process Hemp by becoming a pioneering State in India, to have explored the many possibilities of this resource. At the same time it can provide economic employment , through various sub-sectors such as cultivation, collection, extraction, processing, value addition, seed collection, fuel alternatives, etc which are all labour-intensive activities.

A study was carried out by the Uttarakhand Bamboo and Fiber Development Board with the technical support of GBP&A University with the objectives to identify morphological variability and THC content among different lines of Cannabis sativa L. The materials for present study comprised of nine lines procured from natural populations of Kullu, Pitthoragarh, Pauri garhwal, Bageshwar, Almorah, Ramnagar, Rudraprayag, Haldwani, Haridwar.

The key findings of the study revealed the following:

  1. Significant differences were observed for seed weight and seed germination percentage among the different lines. Seed weight was recorded maximum in treatment 3 (Pauri garhwal) (2.13g) whereas it was minimum in treatment 8 (Haldwani) (1.79 g). Seed germination percentage was found to be maximum in treatment 1 (Kullu) (49.62 %) and minimum in treatment 3 (Pauri garhwal) (10.34 %).
  2. Insignificant differences were observed for plant height and number of leaves per plant. The highest plant height was recorded in treatment 4 (Bageshwar) whereas minimum was recorded in treatment 6 (Ramnagar) at 15 and 30 DAS. The maximum number of leaves per plant was found in treatment 6(Ramnagar) while minimum was recorded in treatment 5 (Almorah) at 30 DAS.
  3. Spectrophotometric quantification of THC revealed that treatment 6 (Ramnagar), treatment 1 (Kullu), treatment 2 (Pitthoragarh) lines showed low THC ranging from 0.002-0.300 whereas treatment 5 (Almorah), treatment 9 (Haridwar), treatment 3 (Pauri garhwal) contained medium THC content ranging from 0.301-0.600 while treatment 7 (Rudraprayag), treatment 8 (Haridwar), treatment 4 (Bageshwar) contained high THC ranging from 0.601- 0.900.
  4. Results from ELISA technique showed that treatment 6 (Ramnagar) contained 24.50 µg THC, treatment 1 (Kullu) 23.80 µg THC and treatment 2 (Pitthoragarh) 24.90 µg THC per 100 mg dried cannabis leaves. Therefore these lines were considered as low THC lines whereas treatment 3 (Pauri garhwal) contain 26.00 µg THC, treatment 4 (Bageshwar) 27.00 µg THC, treatment 5 (Almorah) 25.50 µg THC per 100 mg dried cannabis leaves considered as medium THC lines and treatment 7 (Rudraprayag) contain 29.50 µg THC, treatment 8 (Haldwani) 29.50 µg THC per 100 mg dried cannabis leaves were considered as high THC lines.


Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia): Himalayan Nettle is a grass species, the plant is found in the upper reaches of Himalayas, the plant can attain a height of up to 12 to 18 feet in height. The Plant has been generally found in broad leaf forest, having a high leaf litter fall. Different pockets of Uttarakhand has traditionally used the plant fiber for making domestic products like ropes and other rope based products such as slippers used by, Locally the products like Chappel, Ghana, Natesh, Jotan. Over the years these raw material for these products has been replaced by plastic. Himalayan Nettle has a unique characteristic that makes it an ideal clothing material for both winters and summers, the fibers of the plant are actually hollow as such they can accumulate air inside thus creating a natural insulation. In order to create clothing material for summers the yarn length can be twisted closing the hollow core and reducing insulation. In winter with low twist the hollow fiber remains open maintaining a constant temperature. Considering the enormous potential in nettle, Uttarakhand Bamboo and Fiber Development Board is engaged in processing and standardisation of nettle fiber to create community owned enterprise development through skill development of artisans/weavers to develop diverse range of products in nettle.

Bhimal (Grawia Optiva): Bhimal is a moderate sized tree up to 45 ft high and 5 ft girth, found from Punjab to Bengal and ascending up to an altitude of 7000 feet in the Himalayas. In Uttarakhand, Bhimal is a popular fodder species. It is found growing abundantly in the wild in the mountains and is also cultivated along boundaries of fields by villagers for its multiple-uses. Its bark yields strong fiber which is used to make nets, ropes, sacs, brushes, brooms and rugs. There is potential to develop fine yarn from the coarse and uneven fiber that is obtained from it, to be used in the home textile industry. Once the yarn is developed it could have the potential to be used to make mats, rugs, blinds, and lamp shades. It can be especially useful once blended with sisal, jute, and hemp. Currently the use of this fiber is still being researched and a few products have been developed by the professional designers. Twisting and twining are the regular methods used to create products such as mats, rugs, window blinds, etc. Bhimal exhibits better dye ability than jute. If developed well there is ample potential for innovative products to be developed from this resource, which can take on a state identity.

Agave spp. / Sisal/ Ram bans: Belonging to the Agavacae family, there are 300 species of this plant world-wide. Some of these species yield fiber such as Agave sisalana and hence the name Sisal became a synonym even for other Agave fiber–yielding species. The plant is supposed to be indigenous to the Central Americas. Around the 15th century, this plant spread in Europe, Africa, the Indian peninsula, and central and far east Asia. Though Agaves show a fair degree of adaptability to diverse climatic, edaphic and physical conditions, the warm sub-humid eco region with podzolic and brown forests in the western Himalayan foot hills is suitable for cultivation of agaves. Agave is a perennial plant, large rosette like shrubs, identified by its 50 to 150 thick spiky long, rigid, spirally arranged, leaves. The spike leaves are bunched together on a short stem. Upon maturation, the plant yields a pale yellowish/shiny white fiber. After growing for a number of years (4-10) a large inflorescence is produced and this exhausts the plant, where upon it dies. The leaves are cut to yield the fiber. The leaves of this cactus type plant yield a stiff, thick, uneven and strong fiber. Fiber is extracted from the leaves through decorticator, through which the fiber and other constituents are collected separately. The Agave leaf extract contains roughly 4 % fiber and the remaining 96% residue. World-wide sisal is used for manufacture of marine and industrial ropes, mats, carpets, decorative handicraft and utility items, reinforcement of corrugated polyester sheets, and textiles. The extracted fiber can also be used to make high quality paper-making pulp. In Brazil, sisal is used to reinforce roofing material. Sisal extract waste is used in manufacture of alcohol, bio-pesticide, bio-compost and also used in manufacture of acids and pharmaceutical products. Sisal is used as a live fencing material and also for soil conservation purposes. Future prospects of the development of this resource include development of a bio-pesticide industry given its insecticidal and antifungal properties. In the craft sector of Uttarakhand, sisal is used to make hand-braided and machine stitched mats and decorative products. A few NGOs have been working dedicatedly on this fiber for the past several years, such as Women's Development Organisation, WDO, Dehra Dun (Dr. Mrs. K.K. Sharma), Girish Griha Resha Udyog, Kotdwar, (Mr. Girish Kandwal) and HOPE, Pilkholi Ranikhet, (Mr. Prakash Joshi). They have successfully demonstrated the commercial potential of Sisal fiber handicrafts.

Seasonal Grass


Seasonal Grass

Saccharum spontaneum, Linn. (Kansi), Saccharum munja (Munj or Sarkanda), Typha elephantina (Pateri) etc. are some of the seasonal grasses/leaves that grow wild in the Tarai region of Udhamsingh Nagar district. Much of these grasses grow next to seasonal ponds or larger water sources (such as Sachharum spp.). A field survey was conducted by UBFDB on these seasonal grasses for material assessment, raw material availability and product development. It was found that the availability of the raw material is hence best during and immediately after the monsoons. Kansi and Munj are very similar though Kansi is more widely available in this area. The women artisans are highly skilled in their craft. However the growing bottleneck in this field is the dwindling of the craft resource. The amount of rainfall has a direct bearing on the yield of these resources. These grasses are harvested by rural women from a distance of 4-6 kms from their village and are used by these women for making baskets and mats. Increasingly the distance for resource collection is growing longer and they are now having to resort to buying the resource during the off season, having a direct bearing on production.

Kansi and Seenk/ Urai grasses have been traditionally used for basket-weaving. They are the best grass in absorbing dyes, which are commonly used embellish the baskets with interesting motifs inspired from nature (flowers, seeds, animal figures and trees are commonly used motifs).

Pateri ghaas is used for chatai or mat weaving, which are used to spread on charpais or floor for sitting. San (Jute) is grown locally on small sections of agricultural land where water is sufficiently availability. The presence of this fiber is due to the influence of a small Bengali settlement at Sitarganj. They use jute as a fuel and also for making rope and other household products.

Tools used for weaving the baskets are quite rudimentary such as a thick needle, locally called 'suja'. Scissors or blades are also used to trimming the edges. Weaving on handlooms, knitting and sewing are also popular techniques.

Thus due to the seasonal nature of the basic raw materials, the nature of employment generated by the craft activity is also seasonal in nature. A market focused enterprise can only be built if the raw material is available easily. There is thus a need to promote cultivation of the grasses used for craft within the vicinity of the clusters. This will be beneficial in reducing the collection time and in ensuring a certain security with respect to annual availability of the resource and in scaling up and sustaining commercial craft operations. Also until now these seasonal grasses enterprises were highly subsidized, with no attempts to make the existing handicraft economically oriented through design interventions. Regular design inputs will go a long way in ensuring the marketability of the handicraft items.

Bamboo application in infrastructure:

In the initial vision of the Board low-cost earth-quake resistant bamboo housing was identified as a significant activity that could be undertaken by UBFDB in the State, especially given that Uttarakhand is a hill state classified in zone 5 of high seismic activity. Keeping this in mind two low-cost bamboo houses were constructed mainly for demonstration purposes:

  1. Umrikhal, Lansdowne, Pauri Garhwal
  2. Center of Excellence for Bageshwar Forest Division
  3. Demonstration cum sale outlet at Ajeevika Vatika, Pipalkoti

The aim of these low-cost demonstration houses was to generate awareness about the use of bamboo for creating employment opportunities among the rural communities. Endorsing affordable pucca bamboo houses would also provide a boost to grow more bamboo in the State and to set up enterprises which apart from generating revenue and employment would also enable ecological restoration through bamboo plantations.

Nonetheless the objective of popularizing bamboo in the state is being met to some degree even through construction of mid and high-end structures, which definitely have higher visibility given their aesthetic appeal.

Alongside, bamboo furniture and utility and decorative bamboo and fiber applications are also being utilized under the current format of the housing. Such bulk orders are generating considerable employment and income opportunities for the rural artisans.

For the implementation of Bamboo Housing Activities more than 90 bamboo structures have been built by the board for various Departments/Organisations.