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Distribution and status of bamboos in Nepal - Keshab Shrestha

Reader, Natural History Museum, Tribhuvan University, Swayambhu, Kathmandu, Nepal

Introduction

Nepal is mountainous country in Asia, and occupies only 0.09% of the total land surface of the earth. The country is well known for its natural beauty and great cultural heritage. Nepal has varied climatic conditions from the hot Gangetic plain to the world's highest peak. The country is also very rich in biodiversity. With land area of 143 000 km2, the country is endowed with more than 6000 species of flowering plants including 30 bamboo species. Bamboo is important and popular in Nepal. The knowledge on bamboos regarding botanical identification is inadequate and their management is poorly understood. The publication of Bamboos of Nepal in 1994 by Chris Stapleton, brought many details up to date. Many other species remain yet undiscovered, mostly in less accessible parts of the country.

Bamboos are abundant in eastern, central and western parts of Nepal. Far western regions of Nepal are yet to be explored. Bamboos of Nepal have variable vernacular names. Shrestha (1989) classified Nepalese bamboo, on the basis of perception of local people into 1) large statured bamboo and 2) smalls statured bamboo. Large-statured bamboos are mainly distributed in lowland and mid-hills whereas small-statured bamboos are distributed in high mountains.

Presently, the Department of Forest and Tribhuvan University are actively conducting research on bamboos in Nepal. Department of Plant Resources is conducting research on tissue culture of bamboo plants such as Bambusa and Dendrocalamus sp. as they thrive in hot climates and in poor soil (Das 1988). Mass production of local bamboos through tissue culture has been demonstrated. People of Nepal practice vegetative propagation through rhizome and nodal cuttings in lowland and mid-hills, and mostly the big diameter ones are cultivated.

Methods

Bamboo distribution and their status in Nepal has been reviewed in this paper (Stapleton 1994; Das 1988; Shrestha 1989; Paudyal 1992). A case study conducted in mid western Nepal by the author is also included.

Distribution of bamboos

Bamboos are distributed widely throughout Nepal. They are found in the natural forest in association with other species, but they are very much planted around villages and on private land. Small bamboos, at high altitudes, reach the timber line where snow fall is the natural phenomenon. In mixed forest of oak, hemlock, fir, Rhododendron or in the mixed forest of laurel, acer, birch as well as in evergreen forest, small-statured bamboos are widely distributed up to far west part of Nepal. Table 1 shows the distribution of both the small and large-statured bamboos.

Table 1. Bamboo distribution and present status

Species (Local name)

Eastern

Central

Western

Midwestern Nepal

Status

Ampelocalamus patellaris
(Nibba, Ghopi bans, Lyas bans) Syn. Sinurindinaria jainiana

*


*


Not so common, between 1200-1800 m, used for weaving, construction and flutes

Arundinaria bamboos

*




Rare, above 2900 m, browsed by yak and wild animals, make arrows, brushes and straws.

Bambusa arundinacea

+



#

Not so common, upto 1000 m, used for construction purpose.

B. balcooa
(Dhanubans, Ban bans)


*


#

Common, upto 1600 m, used for poles, scaffolding, weaving, house wall, beams, erosion control.

B. glaucescens var. solida
(Syn. B. multiplex)


#



Recently introduced in garden.

B. multiplex
(Chinese hedge bamboo)


*



Introduced from China, commonly planted in Kathmandu used for weaving and hedges.

B. nepalensis
(Tamabans, Phusure bans)

*

*

*


Common, upto 1500 m, used for construction, weaving, shoot edible, a multi purpose species.

B. nutans subsp. Nutans
(Tharubans, Sate bans)


*

*

#

Common in the hills from 1000-1500 m, not found in terai, used for construction, weaving, poles.

B. nutans subsp. cupulata
(Malbans)

*

*


#

Common upto 1500 m for weaving, poles, fodder.

B. tulda
(Kada bans, Karaicho bans, Chab bans)


*


#

A rare bamboo in Nepal, upto 1000 m for construction, fodder.

B. vulgaris

+

+



Rare upto 1200 m, used for house construction, ornamental, introduced in garden.

B. vulgaris form Kimmei


#



Ornamental, recently introduced.

B. almaii
(Mugibans)

*

#



Cultivated, in eastern Nepal for weaving, upto 1000 m, popular in Terai.

Borinda chigar
(Chigar)





Not so common, found between 2600-3100 m, used for weaving and shelter for wild animals, rodents, birds.

B. emeryi
(Kalo nigalo)

*




A rare species, used for weaving, from 2600-3200m.

Cephalostachyum latifolium
(Syn. Schizostachyum latifolium) (Ghopi) bans, Murali bans)





A rare species, used for weaving and to make flutes, fodder, between 1500-2000m.

Dendrocalamus hamiltonii
(Choya bans, Ban bans)

*

*

*

#

Common, semi-cultivated upto 1500 m, used for weaving, shoot rarely eaten, fodder.

D. hookeri
(Kalo, Bhalu bans)

*




Common, cultivated species 1200-2000 m, shoot edible, fodder, culm for roofing, construction.

D. giganteus
(Dhungre bans, Rachhasi bans)

*




Few and mostly in eastern Nepal upto 1000 m, used for support and container.

D. strictus
(Latthi bans)




#

Below 1000 m, becoming rare, used for paper pulp, construction.

Drepanostachyum falcatum
(Tite nigalo, diu nigalo) (Syn. Sinarundinaria falcata)



*

#

Common, between 1000-2000 m, used for weaving and fodder.

D. intermedium
(Tite nigalo) (Syn. S. intermedia)

*




Common between 1000-2000 m, used for weaving and fodder.

D. khasianum
(Ban nigalo) (Syn. S. Jainiana)


'


#

Common, between 1000-2000 m, used as fodder.

Himalayacalamus brevinodus
(Malinge nigalo)

*




Common between 1800-2200 m, used for weaving, shoot edible and fodder.

H. cupreus



*


Common, between 2300-2800 m, used for weaving.

H. fimbriatus
(Tite nigalo)


*

*


Common, between 1000-1800 m, used for weaving and fodder.

H. porcatus
(Seto nigalo)


*



Rare, between 2000-2300m.

H. hookerianus
(Padang)

*




Common between, 2000-2500 m, used for weaving and fodder.

H. falconeri
(Thudi nigalo, Singhane)

*

*



Common, between 2000-2500 m, used for weaving, shoot edible.

H. asper
(Ghumre nigalo, Malinge nigalo)


*

*

#

Rare, between 1800-2300 m used for weaving.

Melocanna baccifera
(Lahure bans)

*


*


Common upto 1400 m, used for construction and weaving.

Phyllostachys nigra
(Nigalo, Kalo nigalo)


#



Common, garden species in Kathmandu, young shoot edible.

Pleioblastus sp.


#



Introduced in Kathmandu potted plant.

Sasa megalophylla


#



Recently introduced in garden in Kathmandu.

Thamnocalamus spathiflorus
(Rato nigalo)


*



Common, from 2800-3500 m, not commonly used but eaten by wild animals like red panda, bears, birds, shelter, for domestic animals.

T. spathiflorus subsp. Nepalensis
(Jarbuto)


*

*


Common, from 2800-3500 m, used as fodder by wild and domestic animals, shelter for birds, monkeys and rodents.

Yushania maling
(Malingo, Khosre malingo)

*




Common, between 1600-3000 m, used for fencing, brushes.

Y. microphylla
(Mailing, malingo)

*

*



Rare, between 2300-3500 m, browsed by yak and wild animals.

* based on Stapleton (1994)
# based on author's observation.
+ based on Das (1988).
From the above table it can be seen that 9 species such as Dendrocalamus giganteus, D. hookeri, Borinda emeryi, Cephalostachyum latifolium, Drepanostachyum intermedium, Himalayacalamus brevinodus, H. hookerianus, Yushania maling and Arundinaria racemosa are distributed only in eastern Nepal. Eastern Nepal possesses 22 species of bamboo whereas 24, 12 and 9 species are found in central, western and mid-western Nepal respectively. Far western Nepal has not been explored properly. Large-statured bamboos are found mostly below 1000 m. They are Bambusa balcooa, B. nutans, B. nepalensis, B. tulda, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, D. hookeri, D. strictus, Ampelocalamus patellaris, Meloccana baccifera whereas mostly small-statured bamboo or nigalo are distributed above 1400 m. Eight species of bamboo, Borinda chigar, B. emeryi, Cephalostachyum latifolium, Himalayacalamus asper, H. porcatus, Yushania microphylla, Arundinaria racemosa, Bambusa tulda, are getting rare in Nepal.

Ornamental bamboos are grown in gardens: Bambusa multiplex, B. multiplex var. striata, Phyllostachys nigra, Sasa megalophylla, Himalayacalamus fimbriatus and H. brevinodus Manandhar (1996) surveyed bamboo distribution in many parts of Kathmandu valley and reported five genera and 16 species. They are mostly planted by local people for economic as well as for ornamental purpose. Five species have been reported from Pokhara area by Acharya (1988) which needs further revision. Studies on the regional distribution of bamboos on Nepal is very limited.

Uses of bamboo in mid-western Nepal

The study area in mid-western Nepal includes Achham, Bajura and Kalikot districts (Fig. 1). In this area, the large-statured bamboo are used mainly for construction purposes such as house, pole, roof, netting, ceiling, lattice, scaffolding, house walls, beams etc. They are also used for ladder, fencing, leaves as fodder, firework, arrow and bow for hunting, fishing, roads and bridges. Villagers grow bamboos near their houses and bamboos are indispensable in their daily lives.

Fig. 1. Map of Nepal showing the studied area.

In upper mid-western parts small statured bamboo are called nigalo, (Drepanostachyum khasianum) malingo (Himalayacalamus asper) nigalo and Diu (Drepanostachyum falcatum). Drepanostachyum khasianum and Himalayacalamus asper are very much used for various purposes (Table 2).

Table 2. Uses of bamboos in mid-western Nepal


 

Bamboos type - local names

Large statured

Small statured

Item

Banbans

Ghar bans

Kada bans

Bans

Tite nigale

Malingo nigale

Bans nigalo

Food



-

*

*

*

*

Fodder

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Construction

*

*

*

*

-

-

-

Ghum

-

-

-

-

*

*

*

Madami basket

-

-

-

-

*

*

*

Namlo (Topri)

-

-

-

-

*

*

*

Doko

-

*

*

-

*

*

*

Dalo

-

*

*

-

*

*

*

Mat

-

*

*

-

*

*

*

Firewood

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Game (Dhanus)

*

-

-

*

-

-

-

Kuru

-

*

-

-

*

*

*

Supo

-

*

-

-

*

*

*

Chhapro

-

*

-

-

*

*

*

Dhanukad

-

-

-

-

-

-

*

Jolelo

-

-

-

-

*

*

*

Kotha

-

-

-

-

*

*

*

Modan and bad in Charkha

-

-

-

-

*

*

*


Materials mentioned in Table 2 are shown in Fig. 2 are prepared mostly by women with great skill and they earn substantial return. Ghum is used for umbrella using small-statured bamboos. Nambo is a head strap used for carrying heavy baskets (doko). Dalo is a big container for grain storage, jalelo is used for carrying small items such as potatoes, tomatoes etc. Kuru is long and narrow baskets used by fisherman to carry fishes, supo is a flat tray used for dusting grains, chhapro is a basket used to contain food items. The owners of workshops of Dhanus put them in front of their house to please Lord Shiva. This Dhanus is weapon used for hunting wild animals and birds by the owner. The arrow (dhanukad) is made up of Deul. Bamboo handicraft skills are traditionally acquired by the people of mid-western Nepal. If they are further trained, better varieties and durable articles can be produced for improving their economy.

Bamboo ecology in mid-western Nepal

Among the districts surveyed, Achham is found to be highly populated area with small-statured bamboo. Bajura and Kalikot districts are thinly populated with bamboos. Many bamboos died after flowering some 5 years ago. The villagers believe that the population would regrow after some years. In Achham above 2000-3000 m, the area is covered by forest of conifers, oak, laurels (evergreen) and deciduous maple forest. In the open area where trees are thin, small-statured bamboos are dense; damp bamboo places are also covered by bamboo. Fire plays an important role in bamboo growth, so people do not hesitate to set fire during dry season. They also believe that regular cutting of bamboos for their domestic need also promotes good growth, if not harvested regularly the bamboo population decreases.

During the present study, field quadrats of 3 X 3 m were set and number of culms per quadrat was counted. Other associated species were also recorded.

Table 3. Distribution of culms and other species

Quadrat

No. of culms

Other species

1.

171

Ferns, Daphne, Ilex, Hedera, Prinsepia, Rubia, Jasminum

2.

160

Ilex, Prunus, Hedera, Berberis, Viburnum

3.

145

Oak, Maple, Daphne, Hedera, Viburnum

3.

148

Berberis, Prunus, Rhododendron, Tsuga

5.

150

Rhododendron, Oak, Viburnum, Maple, Daphne, Ferns


Some lake areas are rich with bamboos and other associated species and details are presented in Table 4.

Table 4. Bamboo and associated vegetation around lakes in Rama-Roshan area

S. No.

Name of Lake

Size in ha.

Bamboo species

Other plants

1.

Banda

2.0

-

Alnus, Benthamitida, Pines.

2.

Dalyan

-

Drepanostachyum falcatum

Mahonia, Ribes, Corydalis, Plantago, Acorus, Viburnum.

3.

Rama

1.0

-

Viburnum, Prinsepia, Neolitsea, Tsuga, Oak.

4.

Dhanue

0.5

D. falcatum

Tsuga, Piptanthus, Rumex Calanthe, Rhododendron.

5.

Majha Dhanue

0.5

D. falcatum

Ilex, Daphne, Berberis Pyrscantha, Shimmia.

6.

Batule

2.5

D. falcatum

Rumex, Neolitsea, Tsuga, Abies, Quercus, Shimmia.

7.

Jhingane

5.0

D. falcatum D. khasianum Himalayacalamus asper

Cyperus, Acorus, Rosa, Ilex, Berberis, Tsuga, Oak, Sarcococca, Lindera, Rhododendron, Taxus, Sorbus

8.

Lissedali

0.5

D. falcatum

Viburnum, Daphne, Berberis, Neolitsea, Piptanthus

9.

Lama dahe

2.0

D. falcatum

Mahonia, Thalictrum, Prinsepia, Ilex, Piptanthus.

10.

Taule

0.05

D. falcatum

Ribes, Rosa, Daphne, Tsuga, Sarcococca, Abies.

11.

Gagre

-

-

Plantago, Rumes, Carex, Sarcococca, Clematis.

12.

Dauthekhal

0.05

-

Rosa, Tsuga, Oak, Piptanthus, Symplocos, Rhododendron


Economic condition in mid-western Nepal

The land available for agriculture is decreasing. People are more inclined to depend upon natural resources like herbs, timber, grasses, domestic and wild animals (hunting) and bamboos. Due to increasing human population, the forest is dwindling and people have much spare time. The adult males are very much interested to work in India as labourers whereas older people, children, and women go to the forests to collect bamboo culms to make dokos and dalos. One person could prepare 2-3 dokos/night. One doko costs NRS. 30 in the village, and NRS. 50 in headquarter of the district or in town1. In one season a villager could earn as much as NRS. 15 000 from bamboo crafts. This is a quite good earning. More opportunities should be created to improve their earnings.

1 1US$ = Nepal Rupees 69.11
National need in Nepal: Bamboos have many different uses in Nepal. In the present context the country needs to initiate the following activities.
1. Promotion of cultivation and production with scientific techniques.
2. Conservation of bamboo, conservation of biodiversity and environment.
3. Promotion of research on genetic improvement.
4. Solving problems of identification, distribution and local uses.
5. Conduct countrywide socioeconomic surveys.
In a country like Nepal, where bamboo species play an important role in biodiversity and economy, a national policy should be adopted to conduct more research by public and private agencies. The development of bamboo can uplift the declining economy of the rural people. If bamboos can be cultivated on a very large scale without affecting its composition, it can be used in paper industry, construction, furniture, household implements, and many others which give good employment for rural people. Some good attempts have been made recently in this direction.

References

Acharya, B.M. 1988. Identification of Bamboo and its uses in Pokhara Valley. Tribhuvan University Institute of Forestry, Central Campus.

Das, A.N. 1988. Bamboo Research in Nepal. Pp. 1-5 in Bamboos, Current Research, Proceedings of the International Workshop. (I.V.R. Rao, R. Gnanaharan, C.B. Sastry, eds.). KFRI, Peechi, IDRC, Singapore.

Manandhar, R. 1996. Bamboo of Kathmandu Valley, their status in natural forest and economic exploitation. A report submitted to Research Division, Rector Office, Tribhuvan University.

Paudyal, P.P. 1991. Utilization of bamboo in Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Paper presented at the 4th International IDRC Bamboo Workshop, Chiangmai, Thailand, 27-30 Nov.

Paudyal, P.P. 1992. Bamboos, field manual for community and private forestry in Nepal. Part II. HMG/FAO/UNDP.

Rajbhandari, K.R. 1995. Bamboos of the Apsuwa Valley. The Makalu - Barun Conservation Project Working Paper Publication Series Report 13.

Shrestha, T.B. 1989. Ecology for development of the Arun River Basin in Nepal. ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Stapleton, C. 1994. Bamboos of Nepal. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Fig. 2. Various bamboo articles, hand made.


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