Bamboo in Meghalaya


Bamboo is an important resource in our socio-economic and cultural context. It is fast growing, widespread, renewable, versatile and environment-enhancing resource. Apart from its traditional uses, bamboo has various new applications as an alternative to rapidly depleting wood resources and as an option to many expensive construction and furnishing materials.

Bamboo stands as an ideal species capable of achieving conservation of soil and moisture, restoration of degraded land, livelihood and economic security because of its manifold uses and industrial applications. Bamboo deserves to be developed as an economic and environment resource. To achieve this, policy initiatives are required in all inter-related fields of plantation, research & extension, technology, industry, trade and financing.

Bamboo Resource

Meghalaya is richly endowed with the bamboo forests. Its abundance and multiple uses have led bamboo to play a pivotal role in the socio-economic and cultural life of the tribal people of the state. It finds varied uses like construction material, in making of diverse implements for agriculture, fishing and cattle rearing and the simple household items like utensils small furniture etc. Livelihood of significant population in the state is dependent on the handicrafts made of bamboo.

Bamboo forests in the state have diverse species base which include clump forming as well as non-clump forming types. It has been reported that 36 species of bamboo from 14 genera are found in Meghalaya ( Biswas, 1988). The important clump forming species include Dendrocalamus strictus, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Bambusa arundinacea, Bambusa pallida, Bambusa tulda, whereas Melocanna bambusoides is the important non-clump forming species.

Extent of natural bamboo forests in Meghalaya has been estimated to be 3108 sq kilometers (F.S.I. Inventory Report,1990), which is about 14 % of the total geographical area of the state. It has been estimated that the bamboo forest in the state bears 471 million equivalent of sound culms of bamboo. The weight of this Bamboo stock has been estimated to be 2.6 million tonnes. Considering felling cycle of 4 years, the potential yield of bamboo in the state is 2.09 tonnes/ha/year.

Management and Utilization: Current Status

Bamboo forests of the state are largely under the control of Autonomous District Councils (A.D.C.). These forests are subjected to very little or no scientific management. In the government controlled reserved and protected forests, which constitutes about 4.4% of the total geographical area, bamboo generally occurs as associate of tree species. Regular harvesting of bamboo has not been prescribed in the working plans of the reserved and protected forests.

Yield of bamboo mostly comes from the areas owned by the communities which are under the administrative control of ADCs. Large part of the bamboo comes from the abandoned 'jhum' areas where it grows in gregarious manner as colonizer. People harvest bamboo from the areas belonging to their respective communities. The harvested bamboo is used for the following purposes:

  • household use of the villagers
  • making handicrafts
  • selling bamboo of poles in the village and city markets
  • selling bamboo as raw material to the paper mills located in the adjoining state of Assam.

The above activities falling in un-organised sector, no statistics to indicate quantum of material or its value in monetary terms is available. There are four bamboo based industrial units in the state viz Meghalaya Bamboo Chips Limited, Meghalaya Plywood Limited, Timpak Pvt Limited and M/S Roka Cane and Bamboo Works.

Extent of Bamboo Forests & Growing Stock

Inventory of Bamboo resource for the entire state has not been undertaken so far by the State Forest Department. The only information about the extent of bamboo forests and growing stock is available from the Forest Survey of India's report, which is based on the field survey carried out in 1987. Summary of bamboo inventory as per this report is summarized below.

Region Clump Forming Non-clump Forming
(in sq km)
Growing Stock
(in tones)
(in sq km)
Growing Stock
(in tones)
Khasi Hills 1658.20 1286229.4 71.32 91174.3
Jaintia Hills 140.18 108734.6 0 0.0
Garo Hills 831.80 645209.0 329.9 512912.7
Total 2630.18 2040173 .0 401.22 604087 .0

Melocanna baccifera is the predominant and gregariously occurring non-clump forming bamboo in the State.

Important bamboo species of Meghalaya

Gregarious Flowering of Muli Bamboo (Melocanna baccifera)


The impending gregarious flowering of Melocanna baccifera in large tract of the state calls for urgent and concerted action under a plan, which addresses the issues of mitigation of hazards associated with the gregarious flowering, extraction and utilization of the maximum quantity of bamboo and regeneration of the area. The gregarious flowering is expected to take place during 2004-2006.

Bamboo Flowering

Gregarious flowering (masting) may be defined as simultaneous flowering in all the culms in clump and all the clumps in a population of a particular species spread over a large geographical area, usually followed by death of clumps. It usually occurs periodically, period remaining constant for a species in a specific area. The flowering of bamboo is a unique phenomenon, which is not yet well understood. On the basis of the flowering behaviour, Brandis (1906) categorized bamboos in three major groups:

  1. those which flower periodically or gregariously
  2. those which flower annually
  3. those which flower irregularly

Most of the commercially important bamboo species belong to the first category i.e. those, which flower periodically in gregarious manner. They grow for decades and reproduce vegetatively and at the end of a definite period flowering starts synchronously in all the daughter clumps originated from one parent clump even if they are widely separated geographically. Patches of such geographically separated bamboo forests which have same parental origin (may be several generations earlier) are called 'cohorts'. In majority of the bamboo species, the flowered bamboo clumps die after seed setting. Gregarious flowering generally progresses from one end of forest to the other in waves. In a period of 2 to 3 years, the entire forest area would have flowered and all the bamboo clumps would be dead.

The majority of bamboo species flower after long intervals and require careful management for its proper regeneration e.g. Melocanna baccifera (Muli Bamboo) is estimated to flower every 44-46 years. The last recorded gregarious flowering of Muli bamboo in parts of North Eastern region was in the year 1958-59.

The exact physiological mechanism of bamboo flowering is yet not known precisely. Different evolutionary hypothesis are put forward to explain bamboo flowering. They are (i) Parental competition hypothesis - Bamboos form extensive continuous stands with very little canopy gaps. When flowering and seeding occurs competition from parent clumps will be very high for development of seedling. Hence the evolutionary trend is the death of parent clumps giving space to the offspring. (ii) Consumer satiation hypothesis - very large numbers of seed predators are reported for bamboos and this hypothesis suggests that bamboo produces large quantity of seeds, storage of food reserves takes long time. (iii) Climatic periodicity hypothesis- Bamboo flowering is associated with climatic factors like drought. All these hypotheses remain controversial. But it is a fact that there is a periodicity for flowering that is species specific.

Threat & Opportunities

  1. Abundant production of seed leads to explosion of rodent population, which after exhausting the available bamboo seeds turns to grains in the agricultural fields and storage. It has been reported that the rodent menace has often created famine situation in the vicinity of the gregarious flowering area, which further has led to socio-economic unrest and law and order problems in certain regions. Creation of Mizo National Front (MNF) in sixties is often cited as case in pointing.
  2. Death of bamboo culms after the flowering leaves huge amount of inflammable biomass, which becomes a serious fire hazard.
  3. The huge quantity of dead and decaying biomass in forests becomes a potential source of forest pests and diseases, which may adversely affect the forest crops and public health in the area.
  1. Production and Utilization of large quantity of bamboo
  2. Raising bamboo plantations of the suitable species on the clear felled areas
  3. Availability of seeds in abundant quantity
  4. Employment generation

Flowering of Muli bamboo in West Khasi Hills
Flowering of Muli bamboo in West Khasi Hills

Views of flowering of Muli bamboo in isolated patches in Garo Hills
Views of flowering of Muli bamboo in isolated patches in Garo Hills

Action Plan for Management of Gregarious Flowering of Muli Bamboo


  • Mitigate or minimize hazards associated with the gregarious bamboo flowering viz explosion in rodents' population and famine, fire, pests and diseases

  • Extract and utilize maximum quantity of Muli bamboo before it perishes
  • Regeneration of the affected areas by suitable species of bamboo
  • Create suitable environment for people's involvement in bamboo based enterprise to enhance their income generating capacity and create employment opportunities
  • Resource Mapping and Inventory
  • Mass awareness about bamboo flowering and its consequences


  • Extraction of Muli bamboo from the forests
  • Bamboo Plantation

Extraction of Muli Bamboo

  • Extent of forests under Muli bamboo in the State is approximately 400 sq km. Accessible forests out of this at present may be only 25% of the area. It is proposed that by constructing temporary roads ('kuchcha' roads) another 25% area can be made accessible
  • Extraction of about 90% growing stock of Muli bamboo from the above 200 sq km forest area is proposed to be undertaken
  • 271,800.0 tonnes of bamboo to be harvested

Activities Involved

  • Awareness Campaign
  • Rodent Control
  • Infrastructure - Construction of 'kuchcha' roads, Creation of Transit Depots, Creation of Main Depots
  • Extraction - Felling, cleaning and bundling, Shoulder haulage up to the transit depot, Transportation from transit depots to the main depots by trucks, Stacking, storage and protection in the main depots
  • Bamboo Plantation - over an area of 4000 ha
  • Planting Stock - seed origin, vegetative methods, tissue culture
  • Research
  • Resource Assessment

Aptions for Disposal / Utilization

  • sale to paper mills and other bamboo based factories through M.O.Us
  • sale by auction
  • setting up make-shift units for value addition like chipping, pulping or sliver making
  • charcoal conversion

Aptions for Disposal / Utilization

Under the collaboration with N.M.B.A., trial for bamboo based charcoal production has been undertaken for which battery of kilns was erected.

trial for bamboo based charcoal production

battery of kilns was erected

Bamboo Species of Meghalaya
Serial Number Species
1 Arundinaria hirsute
2 Arundinaria mannii
3 Arundinaria microphylla
4 Arundinaria suberecta
5 Bambusa arundinacea
6 Bambusa balcooa
7 Bambusa glauscescens* = Bambusa nana
8 Bambusa khasiana
9 Bambusa longispiculata
10 Bambusa nutans
11 Bambusa pallida
12 Bambusa tulda
13 Bambusa vulgaris*
14 Cephalostachyum capitatum
15 Var. decompositum
16 Cephalostachyum fuchsianum
17 Cephalostachyum pallidum
18 Cephalostachyum griffithiana = Arundinaria griffithiana
19 Cephalostachyum hookeriana = Arundinaria polystachys
20 Cephalostachyum khasiana = Arundinaria khasiana
21 Cephalostachyum polystachya = Arundinaria polystachya
22 Dendrocalamus calostachys
23 Dendrocalamus hamiltonii
24 Dendrocalamus hookeri
25 Dendrocalamus sikkimensis
26 Dendrocalamus strictus
27 Dinochloa compactiflora = Melocalamus compacitiflorus
28 Gigantochloa macrostachya
29 Gigantochloa takeserah
30 Melocanna baccifera = Melocanna bambusoides
31 Neohouzeoua dullooa
32 Neohouzeoua helferi
33 Oxytenanthera albociliata*
34 Oxytenanthera nigrociliata
35 Phyllostachys mannii
36 Pseudostachyum polymorphum
37 Teinostachyum griffithii
38 Thamnocalamus prainii = Arundinaria prainii