The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in Lok Sabha on December 20 and Rajya Sabha by voice vote on December 27, 2017. This bill has amended the Indian Forest Act, 1927 to exclude Bamboo from the definition of trees in this law.ContentsBamboo as Minor Forest Produce: The conflict of lawsThe Recent AmendmentBamboo: Current Legislative PositionImplicationsBamboo as Minor Forest Produce: The conflict of lawsThere are two laws that govern Bamboo grown in forests and non-forest lands in India viz. Indian Forest Rights Act, 1927 and the Forests Rights Act, 2006. The issues related to Bamboo revolve around these two questions:Indian Forest Rights Act, 1927 defines ‘forest produce’ as anything that is found or brought from the forests such as timber, bark, charcoal etc. It also included plants not being trees including grass, creepers, reeds and moss etc. However, it does not define Minor Forest Produce. Under this law, Bamboo was treated as a tree, irrespective of where it grows, since British era. This law kept Bamboo under the control of the forest department.The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006 or Forests Rights Act, 2006 defined Minor Forest Produce as everything valuable that is not timber. The 2006 act recognized the rights of the traditional forest dwellers to live in and cultivate forests that were occupied before 2005. It defined forest rights as inclusive of ‘Right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce, which have traditionally been collected within or outside village boundaries. In this act, Bamboo was placed among Minor Forest Produce. Thus, there was a conflict of laws because on one hand, Bamboo was a MFP while on other hand; Bamboo was to be administered by Forest Department. There was a need and demand to remove the Bamboo from list of trees in the Indian Forest Act, 1927 to settle this conflict. However, the conflict was settled other way in 2011, when then environment minister declared Bamboo as Minor Forest Produce and directed the states to further direct their forest departments about the forest dwellers’ rights over Bamboo. However, at that time, the Indian Forest Act was not amended.The Recent AmendmentThe recent amendment was needed to make things further clear with respect to cultivation of land on “Non-forest lands”. Scientifically, Bamboo belongs to Grass family (Poaecae ) but the Indian Forest Act kept it as a tree along with Palms, Stumps, Brush-wood and Canes. So anyone growing and felling Bamboo on non-forest land would need a permit for intra-state trade and inter-state transit. Some states have exempted such permits for intra-state trade but then the permit requirement for inter-state transit was a big hardship that discouraged farmers to grow bamboo on non-forest land. The recent amendment has done away this impediment of the cultivation of bamboos by farmers on their land.Bamboo: Current Legislative PositionWith the above mentioned changes, the current position of Bamboo is as follows:On forest land, Bamboo is within the purview of Indian Forests Act, but has now status of Minor Forest Produce, and traditional forest dwellers exercise full rights on their cultivation and harvesting.On non-forest land, Bamboo is out of purview of Indian Forests Act, and the farmers can grow it, harvest it, trade it without permits.ImplicationsThese changes will help in the following ways:Cultivation of Bamboo on non-forest land will help in enhancing the agricultural income of farmers and tribal’s, especially in North East and Central India.Wood-based industries will derive greater benefits as they can now start their own bamboo plantations or engage farmers to grow the resource for them. Also it will give a fillip to biofuel and handicrafts industry.This will now help cultivate waste land and encourage farmers and others to take up plantation of suitable bamboo on degraded land, in addition to plantation on agricultural land and other private lands under the agro-forestry mission.The current demand of bamboo in India is estimated at 28 million tones. Though the country has 19% share of the world’s area under bamboo cultivation, its market share in the sector is only 6%. At present, it imports timber and allied products, such as pulp, paper, and furniture. In 2015, it imported about 18.01 million cubic meters of timber and allied products worth 43,000 crore. The amendment will help in addressing some of these issues, besides meeting the demand from domestic production.