Ajeet Thakur has been promoting the cultivation of bamboo and has set up one-of-its- kind nursery solely devoted to bamboo in Chinchwad, writes Hiren Kumar Bose
“It was sometime in 1981 that I first saw a giant bamboo,” begins Ajeet Thakur as we meet him in his Chinchwad-based bungalow home on a November evening. “It could hide a full-grown child.”
Ever since then, Thakur, a mechanical engineer, now in his late sixties, has been obsessive about the variety of grass which we all know as bamboo. His bungalow, Nathkutee, is home to scores of bamboo saplings at different stages of growth. Standing close to a bamboo grove, he points out: “This is Dendrocalamus Giganteus, one of the largest bamboo species in the world which aroused my fascination for the bamboo.”
It took Thakur almost 10 years to lay his hands on saplings of the giant bamboo. “I had put an order for 100 planting material with a Tamil Nadu farmer but months later when I reached with my truck to collect them I was handed only 34 of them for he was pressed by the officials to sell them only to locals. You can imagine how economical was my trip bringing them to Pune,” remembers Thakur.
The giant bamboo reaches a height of 30-40 m and within three years achieves a diameter of 300m and a wall thickness of 20mm. Under favourable conditions, it can grow up to 40cm per day. The dense-clumping species, growing around Thakur’s bungalow seems to be competing with the high-rises which have mushroomed in the neighbourhood!
Thakur has travelled length and breadth of the country to fuel his love for the ‘Green Gold’ of which India has the richest genetic resources with 136 species, including 11 exotic species. In his nursery are clumps, rhizomes and culm cuttings of varieties like Bambusa Oliveri which is used in pole vaults; an almost solid D Brandisi; creeper bamboo; D Ritcheyi used to make soft coal;the black bamboo (G Atroviolacea) used for making traditional musical instruments, handicrafts etc; the hollow B Multiplex with wall thickness of a mere 2mm and several others.
“Only eight bamboo varieties found in India are beneficial to farmers,” says Thakur, founder member of Bamboo Viswa, an electronic journal which promotes Bamboo, its cultivation and products. “Wait for three years and bamboo is ready for harvest unlike Nilgiri, Casuarina or Teak which take around six to seven years besides the required permissions at the time of harvest.”
A familiar figure in bamboo meets and workshops held in the country, Thakur stresses the need to remove the misconception that bamboo is a poor man’s timber. With the sole purpose of promoting cultivation of bamboo he has set up a 13-acre one-of-its-kind bamboo nursery at Khalchwadi in Mangaon taluka of Raigad where he grows planting material of 24 varieties of bamboo.
An easy-to-grow plant, the world of bamboo has much to offer. Like B Multiplex ‘Riviereorum’ if you need a cozy space or a low hedge, B Multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’ for adding colour in your garden, the neighborhood park for its culms turn golden with age or D Stocksii which has been a major source of livelihood of farmers in several villages in Maharashtra.
Though he has a large collection Thakur is promoting 18 varieties of bamboo which includes D Asper, a hollow variety which reaches 20m, diameter of 150 and wall thickness of 15mm, D Brandisi (25m-200mm diameter-25mm thickness), G Atroviolacea (10m-50mm-10mm), A Donax (2m in height), M Baccifera (8m-40mm-6mm) and several others.
When does one harvest bamboo?
“You can harvest a bamboo every third or fourth year. For by then it’s mature and unlikely to be affected by pest,” concludes Thakur.
An abridged format of the article was published in The Golden Sparrow, Jan 08, 2016 (http://thegoldensparrow.com/news/one-of-the-largest-bamboo-species-now-in-our-backyard/0