‘Poor Man’s timber prove to be a boon in poor Zhemgang

Amidst reports of dying bamboos in other parts of the country, those in Goshing gewog in lower Kheng of Zhemgang thrive prosperously.

This comes as a stroke of respite for poverty stricken communities in Zhemgang.

The communities remain ever expectant of the steady flow of cash income from sale of these bamboos often referred to with various names such as green gold, poor man’s timber and tallest grass.

Every 207 households in the gewog have a thicket of bamboo planted in their backyards which are growing great and green. In addition, bamboos grow in the best of its health in the forests adjoining the communities.

Although yet to be proven scientifically, residents of Goshing gewog believe that the bamboo is reviving after it died few years ago.

A village resident, Choidhan said bamboos in the gewog died for reasons unknown. He said, “One summer, the plants flowered and died mysteriously”. There is a belief among the villagers that bamboos flower every 50 years and die but revive on its own.

Goshing Gup, Rinchen Lethro said the bamboo revival comes at a right time when the Chamcharchu Hydroelectric Project phase I & II in Digala of Phangkhar gewog is ready to kick off.

“A piece of bamboo fetches Nu 50,” said Gup Sangay Lethro. He said that the gewog will be able to supply most of the bamboo for the project.

People in the community say at least three species of bamboo thrive well in the area. It includes those locally known as Shuzhing and Saidhing which are local species which previously died in masses; and Jasai which was recently introduced from the neighboring Indian states.

Shuzhing and Jasai are planted and raised in the backyard while Saidhing grows in the government reserved forests and private lands in the proximity.

For the local people in Goshing, Bamboos have a wide variety of uses from construction to cooking. It has been a part of their culture and consumption for centuries. New bamboo shoots are edible and have been used in their cuisines for many years. Besides, it is also used for making traditional archery equipment, fencing materials, making cups and other containers and furniture.

Bamboo in Goshing is used as primary construction materials. It serves as scaffolds, house frames, roofing materials. Bamboo is also a very popular material for flooring.

Bamboo has become a popular eco-friendly alternative to using hardwood as building material. Because of its rapid growth and short life-cycle, bamboo is one of the most renewable natural resources in the world, and it can be harvested on a regular basis without causing significant damage to its surrounding ecosystem.

Studies have shown that unlike hardwood, bamboo plants achieve their full height and girth in just one growing season, which lasts between three and four months. Bamboo shoots spend the first year stretching upwards, after which they begin to dry and harden and begin sprouting branches and leaves. After their second year, the shoots continue to harden even more, shedding their young sheath layers and become fully matured bamboo plants.

Bhutan enrolled itself as member of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) in 2010 and as its first activity, Department of Forests and Park Services, having received the gesture of its newest membership from INBAR, built an engineered bamboo house which they claim is earthquake resistant and cost effective at Tingtibi in Zhemgang.

Given the vast availability of the bamboo resources in Goshing for building modern, safe and affordable houses, the gewog is one viable option for the authorities to consider their next bamboo treatment intervention. Encouraging more use of the bamboo in the gewog goes in perfect sync with the fact that people there already use it for construction of houses, making safe and affordable house for people living in high poverty incidence area and the timber shortage in the country.

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