Assam is a beautiful land that has been blessed with abundant greenery. With a large portion of forest cover dominating the state, people here are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood. As bamboo is one of the valuable natural resource found in galore across Assam, it also makes its presence as a constituent for almost all products that are regularly used by the people of the state in their daily lives. Moreover, a majority of inhabitants of Assam benefits economically by doing entrepreneurship with bamboo. Due to the sufficient number of small scale bamboo industries playing a great role in the development of Assam, bamboo is, therefore, often termed as ‘Green Gold’ or ‘Poor Man’s Timber’ in the state.
One of the amazing facts of bamboo is that it is the fastest growing plant in the world. The reason for the speedy growth of bamboo is because all its cells are created at the time when the plant is a tiny bud. After the seed starts to form a plant, the cells starts to elongate rapidly due to which certain bamboo species can grow up to a height of 36 inches in a day. This rapid growth and tolerance for marginal land, make bamboo a good candidate for afforestation, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation. It is believed that a total of 45 bamboo species grow in Assam. Apart from being a source of high economic value, bamboo is considered to be an environment friendly plant as its roots can reduce soil erosion up to 75%, generates more oxygen than equivalent strands of trees, lowers light intensity, protects against ultraviolet rays and is an important atmospheric and soil purifier. Although bamboo is cultivated across the whole state, it is largely produced in North Cachar Hills, Cachar, Karbi Anglong, Nagaon and Lakhimpur. The Government has always touted Bamboo as the potential for creating opportunities of employment and entrepreneurship for young generations of the state. Bamboo has remained an integral aspect of the state from ancient times. From the construction of houses to the making of furniture that should chiefly serve the purpose of being eco-friendly, bamboo has always remained the go-to material. Bamboo handicrafts have been the major types of export items of Assam and are taken away by tourists with expressions of intrigue and delight to their native places after buying it from local bamboo entrepreneurs of the state. The bamboo handicrafts of Assam literally speaks volumes about the intricate handwork skills possessed by its makers and never fails to attract the eyes of any person when he / she comes across one.
TYPES OF BAMBOO IN ASSAM
According to a research paper in the eminent international publication Journal of Ecosystem and Ecography, the Bambusa species of bamboo found in Assam includes Bambusa arundinacea, Bambusa assamica, Bambusa auriculata, Bambusa barpatharica, Bambusa balcooa, Bambusa bambos , Bambusa cacharensis, Bambusa garuchokua , Bambusa jaintiana, Bambusa multiplex, Bambusa nutans, Bambusa pallid, Bambusa polyporpha, Bambusa pseudopallida, Bambusa rangaensis, Bambusa teres, Bambusa tulda , Bambusa vulgaris and Bambusa ventricosa. There are almost 150 species of Bambusa bamboo found across the globe. These types of bamboo mostly grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates. With its cultivation done widely across Asia and Africa, the speices of Bambusa bamboo are also economically important as these are widely used for making handicrafts and for the purposes of construction. Bambusas are a form of clumping plant with the presence of small branches and leaves than most other types of bamboo. For this reason, it is widely used for manufacturing as cutting and carving products out of it is not so difficult. With medium to large sizes culms, and thicker than average culm walls, Bambusas also provide an ideal material for building and construction.
The types of Chimonobambusa bamboo that are found in Assam includes the Chimonobambusa callosa, Chimonobambusa jainiana , Chimonobambusa quadriangularis. The number of Chimonobambusa bamboo species across the world is considered to be 40. Apart from growing in Assam, they are also found widely in China, East Himalaya, Japan, Myanmar, Taiwan, Tibet and Vietnam. Unlike many bamboo species that grows at a rapid rate, Chimonobambusa are medium-sized and shade loving varieties despite possessing running rhizomes. The remarkable features of Chimonobambusa species include unusual shaped culms and swollen nodes. The culms of these bamboo are mostly shaped in the form of a square instead of being round. As these types of bamboo are shade loving, it can tolerate freezing climates and can grow well there too.
Dendrocalamus giganteus, Dendrocalamus hookeri, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Dendrocalamus longispathus, Dendrocalamus strictus are the varieties of Dendrocalamus bamboo that are found in Assam. The largest bamboo species in the world belongs to the Dendrocalamus genus. You will have to bent to see the height of the Dendrocalamus bamboo species. With its gigantic growth, it can overshadow the heights of most tall trees and would make us feel surprise as to why bamboo is actually considered to be a flowering grass. Most species of Dendrocalamus grow 50-60 feet tall, and 4 or 5 inches in diameter, but some grow much larger. Being tropical clumping bamboo that is native to India and Indonesia, it will not survive the mild winter temperatures. As many Dendrocalamus bamboo species have very thick culm walls that can withstand severe pressure, it is widely used as a building material.
Gigantochloa are giant clumping bamboo species that are similar to the genus Bambusa. The types of Gigantochloa bamboo species of Assam include Gigantochloa albociliata, Gigantochloa nigrociliata, Gigantochloa parvifolia. The shoots of Gigantochloa are used for making various kinds of local lip-smacking delicacies in the state in addition to its usage in manufacturing furniture and musical instruments.
Melocalamus compactiflorus, Melocalamus indicus and Melocalamus mastersii are the types of bamboo species of Melocalamus genus. It is found in lowland areas of Southern China, Indochina, and the eastern part of India.
There are only two bamboo species in the Melocanna genus. One of them is the Melocanna arundina and the other is the Melocanna baccifera. The Melocanna baccifera is widely found across Assam and other northeastern states of India in addition to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Melocanna arundina is found in Thailand, Myanmar and China. Popularly known as the Muli Baah, the Melocanna baccifera is widely used for construction purposes and as a raw material for pulp, paper and rayon industries. It is also used for making of bamboo handicrafts. Melocanna baccifera grows up to a length of 10-20 metre. The culms are greenish when young but becomes straw-colored when mature or brownish green when drying. After every 48 years, Melocanna baccifera flowers almost fully which results in phenomenon known as Mautam or the rapid growth in the population of black rats which can sometimes lead to devastating famine as the rodents start consuming crops.
Phyllostachys mannii is one of the bamboo of the Phyllostachys genus mainly found in North Cachar Hills. The bamboo species of the Phyllostachys genus are native to China and Japan. These are fast spreading bamboo that can grow up to 100 feet and has the capability of forming a beautiful grove within a short period of time. Due to the presence of a prominent groove, called a sulcus in the stem that runs along the length of each segment, it is one of the most easily identifiable genera of bamboo. Although some species can be used for making furniture, most of them are cultivated as ornamental plants in home gardens.
The types of Schizostachyum bamboo found in Assam includes Scizostachyum dullooa, Scizostachyum griffithi, Schizostachyum polymorphum, Schizostachyum pergracile and Schizostachyum helferi. The name Schizostachyum comes from Greek ‘schistos’ (cleft) and ‘stachys’ (spike), referring to the spacing of spikelets. These tall or shrub-like tropical clumping, and sometimes climbing bamboos mostly grows in the in the tropical and subtropical regions. Apart from being used for making handicrafts, some species of Schizostachyum bamboo are also cultivated as ornamental plants
Oxytenanthera parvifolia is the only bamboo species of the Oxytenanthera genus found in Assam. Popularly known as Paharia Jati, this bamboo is mostly used by the tribes of the hilly areas of the state to construct houses and make furniture. It can grow up to up to 20 metre high and 8 centimeters in diameter. However, most species of the Oxytenanthera bamboo grows in Africa due to which it is also known as savannah bamboo.