Prime Minister's Office27-February, 2004 19:9 IST
PM’s inaugural speech at the VIIth World Bamboo Congress
The Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has emphasized that infrastructure improvement, better credit and market facilities, application of inputs of science and technology and community participation are the four pillars on which a strong edifice of prosperity for farmers, artisans and other sections of our rural and urban poor can be built. Inaugurating the VIIth World Bamboo Congress, here today, Shri Vajpayee said that bamboo industry could create 8 million jobs, lift 5 millions of families out of poverty and earn revenue to the tune of Rs. 16, 000 crore by the end of 2007. Shri Vajpayee also highlighted the relevance of bamboo in the global context, particularly in mitigating environmental crises such as deforestation, desertification and increased carbon dioxide emissions.

Shri K.C. Pant, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Shri Rajnath Singh, Union Minister for Agriculture and Cooperation, Shri Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, Union Minister for Textiles and Mr. Ian Hunter, D.G, INBAR were among the distinguished guests present on the occasion.

The following is the text of the inaugural speech of the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the VIIth World Bamboo Congress here today:

“I am happy to be with all of you at this 7th World Bamboo Congress. A warm welcome to all our esteemed friends from abroad, who are participating in this Congress. I congratulate the Planning Commission for its initiative in organizing this important event in India. It is important for us from many points of view – from the point of view of employment generation, sustainable development, raising farm incomes, and promotion of a wide variety of enterprises that are based on bamboo.

Bamboo is an ordinary plant, but with extraordinary qualities. It is a symbol of strength, flexibility, tenacity, and endurance. For centuries bamboo has been integral to the daily life of people throughout Asia. Bamboo touches us in many ways. Just as every part of coconut is used, I am told that bamboo has 1,500 documented uses – from cradle to coffin.

Bamboo is used to build houses, and it is also used to make many things used inside people’s homes. A poet has aptly said,

“When the first people on earth came

To make the first village,

The bamboo was there!”

There is great beauty in bamboo’s amazing range of functionality. In flute it creates music. In brush and paper it creates poems and paintings. And in simple sticks and strips in the hands of ordinary men and women, it inspires wondrous works of art.

Bamboo is also used in religious ceremonies throughout Asia. Speaking of religious ceremonies, I seem to have some personal association with bamboo because of my name ‘Vajpayee’. In an ancient Indian sacrifice called “vajapeya”, bamboo seeds were offered to the fire. I do not say that my interest in bamboo owes to this association. But I have to admit that I have always been fascinated by bamboo, which rightfully deserves its nickname, “the miracle plant”.

Bamboo is in the process of being rediscovered in modern times. The World Bamboo Congress is both a manifestation and an important mechanism of this rediscovery.

For us in India, the natural wealth of bamboo and the rich resource of traditional skills provide a good basis for its rediscovery and future development. Bamboo was earlier a “minor” forest produce – considered the under class or the poor relative of mighty cash woods. Now, we intend to make it “major” in its profile and its place in the rural economy. From an “orphan” crop, bamboo could emerge as the green gold for India.

We have a large area under bamboo. We have a large number of craftspersons, especially women, in bamboo craft. Yet, the potential of bamboo as an important economic resource had remained largely untapped so far. This was due to lack of an appropriate policy and institutional framework, scientific plantation, community involvement, technology upgradation, and product and market development. India's bamboo economy is still small compared to those of some other Asian countries.

However, this is set to change. India is now on the threshold of a bamboo movement. The ripples are being felt in different regions and sectors and efforts are on to weave them together. The Government has allocated Rs. 2,600 crore in the Tenth Plan for this purpose, by far the largest sum ever designated for such a specific programme. Our aspirations and expectations are indeed high. We hope to create about 8 million jobs in the bamboo industry, lift 5 million families out of poverty and earning Rs 16,000 crore in revenues by the end of its Tenth Plan in 2007.

In order to give a focused attention to the bamboo sector, the Government has recently launched a National Mission on Bamboo Technology and Trade Development. In the strategy envisaged under this Mission, the growing and primary processing of bamboo will be a function of the community. All value addition and commercial activities such as processing, manufacturing and trading can be taken up by cooperatives and private entrepreneurs. The Government will play the role of a facilitator responsible for creating an enabling environment by providing policy, technical and financial support.

A major plank of this strategy is to bring an additional 6 million hectares under bamboo in forest and non-forest areas. We would especially like to further develop bamboo cultivation and bamboo industry concentrated in our North-Eastern region. At the same time, we want to promote bamboo in newer areas across the country.

With an established industrial base for a range of diversified products, a rapidly expanding domestic market, and growing opportunities in the global market, there is no reason why bamboo cannot leverage itself into a position of strength in India.

Today there is a serious debate not only in India but also all over the world on how to increase employment opportunities. What is conventionally called the organized sector of the economy has increased productivity spectacularly. But it has not increased employment opportunities within itself.

Some people project this dichotomy as evidence that technology and economic reforms are curtailing employment. But this is not true. We can see from the example of bamboo itself, that the bamboo economy can be substantially developed through application of technology and well-conceived promotional programmes. Bamboo is already creating a new generation global products that are enriching our lives. Power generation, pharmaceuticals, water purifiers and filters, innovative industrial and construction applications to make it a dependable wood substitute – all these are new uses of bamboo made possible by science and technology.

Both domestic and global markets provide growing opportunities for the conventional as well as non-conventional uses of bamboo. This is also true about many other new and potentially attractive areas of growth in agriculture, such as medicinal plants and bio-fuels. In order to harness these new opportunities, we have decided to set up a National Mission on Bio-Fuels. We have already established a Medicinal Plants Board.

The main purpose of these efforts is to put local, natural and renewable resources to productive use, create local employment and self-employment opportunities, and to augment rural incomes. Towards the same end, we have launched several ambitious projects for improving rural infrastructure. A notable example of this is the massive programme for construction of rural roads. We have taken steps to make credit cheaper for farmers and artisans. We have also started a scheme to provide credit cards to them, so that they can access credit easily.

We believe that infrastructure improvement; better credit and market facilities; application of inputs of science and technology; and community participation are the four pillars on which we can build a strong edifice of prosperity for farmers, artisans and other sections of our rural and urban poor.

The goals and strategies of the World Bamboo Congress are no doubt significant for our individual countries. But they have a wider global relevance, too. Deforestation, desertification and increased Carbon Dioxide emissions threaten the earth’s biodiversity and the very air we breathe. The social, economic and political implications of this looming environmental crisis are difficult to imagine. Bamboo has an important role to play in mitigating this crisis. Therefore, it should be our aim, through this Congress, to inform and raise awareness about “Bamboo, People and the Environment”. Every action counts, every person counts.

Your Congress in the past has contributed substantially to development of the bamboo sector throughout the world. It has raised the profile of bamboo amongst the people, governments and institutions. These events have also encouraged global interaction through improved networking and sharing of information, helping bamboo-growing countries to learn from each other’s experiences. I am sure that the 7th World Bamboo Congress would become a landmark in establishing bamboo as a key component in economic and industrial advancement of the developing countries and a dependable wood substitute for the countries facing shortage of forest produce.

With these words, I inaugurate your Congress and wish it success.

Thank you.”
(Release ID :1220)