Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bamboo lovers unite to save nation’s forests

Bamboo, a rich resource for the country, could soon be history if action is not taken to preserve it, a conservationist has warned. Daw Devi Thant Cin, manager of Myanmar Green Network, said the quality of bamboo forests was being degraded.

Speaking in Yangon on January 14, Daw Devi Thant Cin said she wanted to form an association for “bamboo lovers” to tackle the issue.

“The association would raise public awareness of the importance of bamboo and support the development of the livelihood of village communities by sharing sustainable ways to get more income from bamboo,” she said.

She said that amid deforestation of bamboo and degradation of its quality, bamboo seeds are being collected at K6000 a pyi (about 2 kilograms) in Yea Ngan village in Shan State for export.

“People never grow bamboo, but it is always being cut down. If we don’t take action, the next generation could see bamboo only in history books.”

Dr San Win, pro-rector of the University of Forestry, said bamboo could be used to promote sustainable rural development activities. “Bamboo-based socioeconomic development has the advantages of quick returns, biodegradability, and fewer restrictions than timber,” he said.

He added that although Myanmar has the third-largest bamboo reserves globally, after China and India, its income from bamboo is minimal. Myanmar has 17,385 hectares of commercial-grade bamboo forest, according to the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry.

“Total income from forestry products in Myanmar is about US$500-$600 million, including teak sales of $300 million. But according to 2011 data from the China Bamboo Research Centre, China receives $1.748 billion, Indonesia more than $400 million, and Vietnam more than $200 million. Myanmar received less than $2 million from bamboo products,” he said, adding that the data was from 2010.

U Aung Soe, assistant research officer at the Forestry Department, said the production of value-added quality bamboo products should be promoted to raise income.

“Most bamboo that can produce quality products ends up as chopsticks. There is a lack of knowledge and skill to make quality products here,” he said.

Dr San Win said bamboo could be used to make various household appliances, food and clothing but is also valuable in environmental conservation. “Bamboo is a key player in maintaining fresh water. It is also the best bio-fertiliser for teak.”