File photo: Bamboo structures to curb soil erosion in smaller rivers Dhaka Tribune

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and it is sturdy enough to become an alternative for timber

To maintain ecological balance, at least 25% of a country’s landscape should be covered in forests. However, the forestland and forest resources in the country continue to deplete at an alarming rate to meet the ever-increasing demand for timber and wooden fuel.

Against this backdrop, Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI) has come up with a solution to the increasing use of wood timber.

According to the researchers of the country’s lone forest-based institute, bamboo can be a good alternative to timber for a country like Bangladesh which has a low forest-to-population ratio.

The scientists of the research institute are of the opinion that the fast depletion of forestland can be reduced to a significant extent through increasing the use of bamboo composite products as a good substitute for timber.

The BFRI researchers further informed that the use of bamboo for making furniture is gaining ground in the country. Moreover, China, India, and Thailand have undertaken various initiatives to diversify the use of bamboo as an alternative to timber.

In Bangladesh bamboo is generally used for house construction, scaffolding, shelving, fencing, making ladders, mats, baskets, tool-handles, pipes, toys, fishing rods, fishing traps, and handicrafts.

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Plywood, particle board, cement-bonded particle board, tiles, and panels can be made of bamboo. Besides, furniture items like shelves, different types of sofas, computer tables, showcases, dining tables, beds, bedside tables, tea tables, molded chairs, dining chairs, and hanging racks can also be made of bamboo.  

AK Khan Plywood Factory, a subsidiary of AK Khan Company Ltd has been manufacturing and marketing bamboo flooring tiles, solid boards, and doors for a long time in the local market.

What BFRI officials have to say

The BFRI is the first institute of Asia which began research on bamboo regeneration and management. The institute boasts of inventing “Branch Cutting” technology for bamboo regeneration.

BFRI Director Dr Md Masudur Rahman said: “The stark reality is that the country’s population is increasing exponentially while vast tracts of forest lands are also being destroyed at an alarming rate.”

“How can we face the challenge of rapid depletion of forest land and population growth? We can easily conserve our forests through creating bamboo grooves. Bamboo is a very important forest resource due to its diverse use,” said the director.  

“Bamboo is actually a kind of grass which is also the fastest-growing plant on the planet. Bamboo is usually ready for harvesting within three to five years of planting whereas trees like Teak (Segun), and Mahogany need 15 to 25 years,” said Dr Rahman, adding that the furniture items made of bamboo can reduce the pressure on other trees and consequently conserve nature.  

There are about 1,500-1,700 species of bamboo found worldwide. Of them, 33 species of bamboo including 26 plain land and seven hilly ones are available in Bangladesh.

Mahbubur Rahman, divisional officer of Silviculture Genetics Division of BFRI, said: “We should increase our dependence on bamboo further since it holds all the prospects of effectively replacing timber wood.

He said: “Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world. It grows one to 1.5 feet in just 24 hours and the plant grows up to 30ft to 100 ft depending on the varieties within two to three months. 

“Bamboo can also help fight global warming by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere,” he added.

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