The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked states to treat bamboo as a minor forest produce (MFP). Environment minister Jairam Ramesh directed the states to ask their forest departments to follow this categorisation in a letter dated March 21.
He also asked the states to respect the rights of the comm unities living in forests as per the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 . The Act recognises bamboo as an MFP and vests the “right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest pr oduce” with Scheduled Tribes and traditional forest dwellers (see ‘Major battle over minor produce’, Down To Earth, November 1-15, 2010).
The forest departments have been refusing to give communities the control over bamboo. They insist that since the Indian Forest Act 1927 treats bamboo as a tree, it cannot be treated as an MFP (see ‘Is bamboo a tree or a grass’, Down to Earth, December 1-15, 2010). In the letter, Ram esh said that gram sabhas will have the right to issue transit passes to transport bamboo out of forest for sale in areas where rights to the community forests resources are recognised under FRA (see ‘Bamboo sale for bamboo rights’, Down To Earth, March 16-31, 2011).
The letter also stated that extraction levels of bamboo will be decided by the respective gram sabhas. They will develop a management plan for commercial harvesting of bamboo in consultation with the forest department.
In areas where community claims on forests are not settled, the forest department will develop management plans. The revenue generated from bamboo cultivation will be shared with the communities.