The biggest climate conference of the decade, COP26 hosted by the United Nations held in Glasgow concluded with nations committing to several climate actions to move forward in achieving the defined goals by the COP26 committee.
These major goals are to secure global net-zero & 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach; adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; mobilise finance, and work together to deliver. Sangeeta Agasty Regional Director (South Asia) at International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR), talked to VOISPLANET and shared how the sustainable production sector can contribute to achieving these COP26 goals and how India could improve the bamboo contribution to the global market.
On the possible contribution of sustainable production sectors in achieving COP26 goals:
Relevant to the current scenario, when everyone is pushing for sustainability in both the environment and socio-economic sector, INBAR is working on the sustainability domain by promoting environmental sustainability using bamboo and rattan in different arenas including housing, daily usage products and providing solutions in restoring the terrestrial ecosystem.
Bamboo products are biodegradable and a renewable resource and hence it falls in line with the net-zero goal, environment preservation and community support. They can be used to manufacture small products like matchsticks to large scale structures like wind turbines, and the possibilities are endless. There are non-renewable and unsustainable goods in our lives, which can be easily replaced with eco-friendly materials like bamboo. With the right kind of technology and supply chain made available for developing bamboo and rattan products, the consumer base for bamboo products can be enhanced.
On Bamboo as an eco-friendly alternative to mitigate plastic pollution:
According to data provided by UNEP in 2019, the global plastic accumulation amounted to 8.3 billion tonnes since the 1950s. About 60% of this waste was non-renewable and ended up in landfills or the natural environment, and only 9% of it is being recycled, which is a very insignificant amount. Single-use plastic and PVC in particular are the culprits, and bamboo is a good alternative to them. Bamboo can provide a solution to one of the major environmental challenges that is plastic pollution.
Our household items like cutlery and other daily use products are easily replaceable. Similarly, housing and construction materials can also be made of renewable substances like bamboo and rattan. Bamboo is more sustainable than other plant-based products like timber as they take years to grow to that size. Even engineered bamboo is less energy-intensive and much less pollutive.
On the level of acceptability of processed bamboo and its industrial base in the market:
INBAR is trying to create an industrial base that can supply these kinds of sustainable products.
India is the second-largest bamboo-rich county, and our bamboo in terms of resource base contributes around 40% of the global bamboo resource, and in terms of the value-added products the economic value is just 4.5%. The Indian contribution of bamboo to the global market is very insignificant, despite having 40% of the global resource base.
The major reason for such a low product value base is the very thin layer of industry in the country. Even if we consider the micro-enterprises as part of the industrial setup sector, in the MSME sector also there are about 5 million people who are directly or indirectly dependent upon bamboo-based livelihoods.
The kind of products that we are talking about, requires a scale. In the sustainable areas where we can introduce bamboo, such as the packaging industry, the energy sector requires a scale production and it requires technological know-how. Setting up an industry needs finance and several other factors which help in terms of making a product. Presently, to broaden the thin layer/base of such enterprises in the country, we have to do a lot of R&D and prioritize the products.
We have about 126 varieties of bamboo, these are useful for different kinds of products but it's not possible with every bamboo variety. Thus, the scientific properties of all of that have to be understood along with the local context and the market dynamics. After this is done, wecan prioritize our options for people and support them in setting up their enterprise and linking them with the market. It requires an integrated approach, through which we can create several industries in the country for producing these kinds of sustainable products.
On the efforts of INBAR towards global sustainability standards for the production and use of bamboo
For different types of materials, there are a set of standards as per the industry.However, people have a wrong perception of bamboo that it is a low-quality product, not durable, due to which there’s a baggage/barrier, particularly in India where it is seen as a village product, used by poor people. Such stereotypes/perceptions have limited the exploration of possibilities.
When we want to introduce the fine applications we also have to see that people understand and they have the confidence to use those kinds of products in their direct consumption and also the industrial or intermediary construction, for example, housing, construction and furniture.
Thus, INBAR is trying to develop different types of sustainability standards, or introducing these products in the segment, with the right kind of environmental sustainability in mind along with social sustainability. We have to ensure all these kinds of social security frameworks, social aspects are also within the standard, that is why precisely we are coming up with different kinds of standards.
We have created a task force for ISO or national level bodies to come up with the right kind of standards, particularly to promote the sustainable consumption aspect of such green products like bamboo and rattan.
On tackling socio-economic roadblocks in this sector:
Keeping all the environmental, socio-economic aspects in mind, whether the rural, semi-urban and urban market, all are important. The entire bamboo system is surviving, and it is generating a lot of employment due to a strong rural market. In several states, people feel that bamboo is an integral part of their lives at home, in agriculture systems, and for construction/housing work.
In the urban segment, many unsustainable things can be easily replaced. But, there is a need to create the perception that even bamboo-based products can also be very attractive, very durable and can have all these properties and the product with the right kind of technology and quality system can replace many things including such as floor tiles etc.
These are different segments, and they need different approaches and strategies, but shifting the perception from poor man’s timber to rich man’s pride is not the right strategy. Both have equal importance.