Lanka’s bamboo drive aims to triple canopy, create 800,000 new jobs and add 2.7% to annual power

Friday, 21 September 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The first ever national bamboo industry processing initiative launched 19 September, leverages UNIDO’s resources to the max while positioning for a promising 800,000 new jobs by 2019. “The national bamboo initiative launched today with about $ 24 million investment, in its first stage aims at strengthening the bamboo supply chain. 

Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (third from right) arrives at the inaugural event of national Bamboo Project launch by UNIDO Colombo at Galle Face Hotel with UNIDO Project Coordinator Sarath Abeysundara (far left) Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Anura Siriwardene (second from left), UNDIO Focal Point National Director Nawaz Rajabdeen (second from right), and New Delhi basedUNIDO Country program Sri Lanka Team Leader Antonio LevissianosThe project aims to increase current bamboo coverage from 5000 Ha to 15000 Ha with 10000 Ha new bamboo canopy (coverage) and help stop deforestation. More than 800,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities are also to be newly created and 311,000 mega-watt hours of electricity and heat per year capacity will be added through biomass energy by 2019. This is equal to 2.7 per cent of total electricity generated in the country last year,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen.

Minister Bathiudeen announced this on 19 September having inaugurated the pioneering national Bamboo Project of UNIDO Focal Point at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. The $ 24 million, seven year-long project aims at tripling Sri Lanka’s bamboo growth from current 5000 Ha to 15000 Ha by 2019 strengthening the bamboo supply chain to industrial levels with 150000 tonnes of ready dry bamboo supply to the country annually (estimates show that the requirement for biomass energy in Sri Lanka is expected to increase to 9.7 million tonnes by 2020).

The session was also graced by Delhi based UNIDO Deputy Representative for South Asia Antonios Levissianos with such experts as UNIDO associate Expert in Agricultural Engineering Kentaro Aoki, UNDIO’s Indian Technical Officer Sujit Das and many other distinguished invitees. The public sector co-financers of the Project are the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, the Forest Department of Sri Lanka, UNIDO, and from private sector are Touchwood Investments PLC and Bamboo Resources Development (Pvt.) Ltd.  “Soil quality in about 6000 hectares of bamboo cultivation is expected improve considerably so that these lands are integrated back to the economy. Due to the high availability of bamboo in the country, our industries need not spend for bamboo imports. I am also given to understand that in Stage two, the focus will shift to value chain development,” added Minister Bathiudeen.  

Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Anura Siriwardene addressing the event said, “We are pleased to note that since 1999 UNIDO has completed several programs to the value of US$ 7.5 million in areas of trade capacity building, energy and environment and poverty alleviation in Sri Lanka. Today’s initiative is by far the largest in terms of funding which is $ 24 Million. I am also pleased to state that the Project has obtained $ 2.36 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  As Sri Lanka experiences resurgence thanks to President Rajapaksa, we believe that importance of UNIDO’s role will continue to deepen.”

UNDIO Focal Point National Director Nawaz Rajabdeen said, “Today is a special day as after two years of hard work, the pioneering project is finally taking off. We will be able to show the greater potential in bamboo and create many new opportunities, specially the value addition and such opportunities for the rural sector. And for our plantation sector, bamboo offers a ready biomass supply.”  

Making a special presentation Aoki said that though bamboo is seen as another type of grass by many, in East and Far East, it has its due place. “For us in Japan and for many others in Far East, it’s a regular source of delicious food,” Aoki said. “More importantly, bamboo products and furniture fetch a premium price. A bicycle with a bamboo frame is around US $ 3000 and there is good demand for it in Japan and Far East. What we mean by supply chain development in Sri Lanka are actually four dimensions-establish policy framework with national government, share knowledge for the bamboo supply chain and demand for new market development, take care of environmental impact and co-benefits to bring more benefits, and secure attractive investment environment to reduce risks.”

Levissianos stressed, “We thank you for the support. More importantly, we want your inputs as the project continues to progress. In fact we are looking forward to it.” Secretary, Ministry of Environment and GEF Focal Point Sri Lanka U.D. Basnayake said, “In Sri Lanka, GEF has provided funds for such projects as biodiversity, biomass, control of invasive species to around $61.30 million in 21 national projects in the island from 1994-2011. GEF funding also helped to generate $350 million co-financing from funding agencies for various projects in Sri Lanka.”