Careless losses

Published: Saturday 31 October 1992

Bamboo groves in Mizoram (Credit: Anil Agarwal /CSE)Bamboo roofs, floors, and even doors: that's the style of houses in the northeastern states, home to more than 50 per cent of the genetic resources of Indian bamboo. Of the nearly 100 species belonging to 19 genera in the country, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Assam together account for 16 genera, covering 63 species.

But bamboo houses may soon be a thing of the past because rapid destruction of bamboo forests is causing a major loss of genetic variability. Overexploitation for commercial use and unscientific harvesting of bamboo culms, as the stems are called, are two reasons why some species of bamboo are disappearing. An interesting feature is the change in the use of bamboo. A species at one time exploited to make poison arrows has become rare as it is no longer used in making arrows.

Excessive cutting of timber trees and allowing is bamboo forests to flower are other destructive factors that can be checked. By not cutting trees, new bamboo shoots would be : protected and by maintaining a harvesting cycle of three to four years for culms that mature fully in about three years, flowering would be prevented.

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