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Bamboo and ‘ecological society’

INBAR News
11Jul

INBAR was invited to reflect on the role of bamboo in China’s ‘eco-civilisation’, at the 10th Eco-Forum Global Congress.

July 6, Guiyang, Guizhou province, China – Like many countries, China is searching for the best way to balance economic development and environmental protection.  A recently formulated Chinese term refers to this delicate balance as ‘eco-civilisation’ – a term which comprises the fundamental relations between the economy, environment and society, but adds cultural context and political conditions.  The 10th Eco-Forum Global, held in Guiyang city, China from 6 to 8 July, was a celebration of the concept of eco-civilisation, and a reflection of the role of this concept in international policy and South-South cooperation. Some 3000 people attended the Congress to discuss these issues.

INBAR Director General Dr. Hans Friederich spoke at the 10th Forum, in a session about green urban development. In his talk, Dr. Friederich reflected on the opportunities that bamboo provides for sponge cities, earthquake-resilient construction, and the creation of green urban spaces.

According to Dr. Friederich, “Using bamboo as a vehicle for the development of an ecological society requires consideration of a number of factors. The cultural aspects of bamboo use, which remain a large part of society, particularly in the South of China, need to be incorporated.” As well as this, eco-civilisation “also requires recognition of ecological values, like the protection of the giant panda, land restoration and climate change mitigation; the economic aspects of developing a healthy bamboo industry, with support from the private sector; and the social task of creating a well-trained work force that can successfully manage the new value chains – all within the political and administrative context of maintaining the land and finding room for different types of land use.”

With six million hectares of bamboo, China has used this grass plant for thousands of years. Now, it has great potential to help promote ‘greener’ growth.

In a session on green development, Dr. Friederich was asked about the role of bamboo in poverty reduction. In his answer, Dr. Friederich described how bamboo and rattan can provide food and fodder for livestock, but also create employment opportunities therefore help with poverty reduction. China is a lead example in this trend, with the bamboo sector in China employing more than 8 million people. Dr. Friederich described the changing lifestyle of a woman in Chishui, Guizhou province, who generates several million RMB per year from a range of bamboo investments. He also recounted the “amazing changes” in Anji, Zhejiang Province, “where the district-wide bamboo production value increased from RMB 26 million in the late eighties to RMB 21 billion last year”. Finally, he talked about the new bamboo winding technology that has been launched in China and which will be the foundation for a global bamboo industry to construct pipes, railway carriages and housing units.

In an interview with Xinhua News, Friederich said: “One of the biggest problems at the moment is that all the megacities have a lot of concrete, glass and steel and in fact in many places there aren’t many spaces that are still natural.” He applauded the ecological practices in places like Chishui. “With new concepts like sponge cities, China is pushing the bar even higher, to make cities even greener than they are already.”

In China, bamboo provides the raw material for a very lucrative industry, worth some USD 30 billion according to the National Forestry and Grasslands Administration.