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Let a million hectares of bamboo bloom

  • Written by Joey C. Papa
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 243

Bangon kalikasan

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, together with the Climate Change Commission and other government agencies and stakeholders, has launched a six-year bamboo program to address the challenges of climate change and increasing poverty, according to a DENR press statement emailed to me.

At the recent National Symposium and Exhibit on Bamboo in which 300 experts, policy makers and bamboo sector stakeholders discussed what bamboo can do in the face of such challenges, Secretary Gina Lopez said that the program will promote bamboo for “adaptation because that’s protection, and then mitigation because it absorbs carbon and then we do inclusive growth…. the result of that creates an economic stimulus and then you keep on growing the money until people’s lives come up in time. It has to be impact- oriented and results-geared.”

Lopez reiterated what those of us who have long been promoting, planting, and making good use of bamboo have been saying.

Anyone who knows bamboo cannot help but love and grow and use this longest and most beautiful grass and it is a puzzle that the Philippine government’s interest in it has not been as intense in past administrations as the great potential it holds.  Bamboo sequesters so much carbon, so much more than trees can do, so there is your answer to beat the climate heat. The DENR statement in fact cites studies saying that “compared to some trees, bamboo has the capacity to sequester 400 percent more carbon per unit area.”
At the same time, bamboo gives off much more oxygen than trees, to resuscitate the tubercular state of health of our environment and our very own lungs, while it holds water very effectively in its roots and can thus greatly prevent landslides, erosion, and floods. Bamboo, therefore, can re-green denuded forests, create new forests, and watersheds, and rehabilitate ravaged lands like dumpsites and abandoned mine sites.
After the first year, the culms planted would be taller than the ordinary height of a person, conservatively speaking, considering that bamboo grows at the rate of some 3 centimeters per day while one culm multiplies at the same time--- around it, from its roots, like grass does.
Thus bamboo is also a very good source for so many of our needs for food, clothing, shelter,  implements for household, farming, manufacturing; health maintenance, protection, restoration; recreation, travel; livelihood and enterprise, name it, bamboo has it. And yet while using it, its number need not be reduced unlike the cutting of trees for timber, because it continues to multiply even as one harvests poles from a clump.
We look forward to the realization of the DENR target of one million hectares of bamboo plantation to be established over the next six years under the Enhanced National Greening Program, to cover watersheds and critical areas. Lopez, according to the statement, is very hopeful of the the success of the Bamboo Program. This, she said, could help the country access the Green Climate Fund, a financial mechanism under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
“We need to make this work because if it works, then the country can be a recipient of a lot of money,” said Lopez, referring to the pledge of US$1billion a year by 2020  under the Paris Agreement to assist developing countries in their efforts to adapt to climate change.
We would just like to bring up at this point the issue about continuing quarrying and conversion of watershed and agricultural areas into resorts, shopping malls, and other commercial uses by well-connected individuals and businesses, and even into garbage dumpsites, as is happening in many parts of the the country. If not checked, these destructive activities would considerably negate the anticipated benefits from the bamboo program.
There is so much in bamboo that those engaged in destructive and purely commercial activities at the expense of the environment could pause for a moment to study the bamboo, and they might discover that they could benefit much more doing good, through bamboo growing and development.

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