Venu Bharati

Bamboo is perhaps one of the most under-utilised natural resources of the country. Venu Bharati -A Comprehensive Volume on Bamboo by Vinoo Kaley is a book that brings together Kaley’s vision of sustainable development, to make this grass an essential element of the industrial base, and not merely a part of the handicrafts industry. An introduction to bamboo and its usage, it provides a wealth of information on anatomy and composition, preservation, farming, applications, processing techniques and products.

Vinoo Kaley was an architect turned artisan and activist. Known to social activists across the country as "the bamboo man”, Kaley was to be found working among traditional bamboo artisans, making and helping to design bamboo products that could be used even in modern urban life.

Venu Bharati - A Comprehensive Volume on Bamboo was finalised by Vinoo Kaley just days before he died of a heart attack in June 1998. The book has been produced by his colleagues and was released at Wardha in June 2000. This book is an account of Kaley's research on Venu, one of the many Sanskrit names for bamboo. Here bamboo is the central point of a larger vision for an alternative mode of development, which would make efficient and rational use of natural resources in creative ways.

India is home to almost 45 per cent of the world's bamboo forests. But irrational and inefficient harvesting gives us ridiculously low yields. The uses to which the bamboo is put are also not optimal. For instance, Kaley calculated that a tonne of bamboo creates upto 350 person days of work in the artisanal sector. By contrast it creates 12 person days in a paper mill which also needs large quantities of water and electricity. Kaley's energy was focussed on expanding a “bamboo sector" which would not only boost the traditional bamboo artisans but give livelihood to millions of others.

Venu Bharati is both a documentation of the various bamboo species of India and also an analysis of how and why this resource is being misused. Bamboo is also one of the world's best natural engineering materials, growing much faster than wood and needing relatively little water. Kaley explains why bamboo is a key element in maintaining the ecological balance and ensuring sustainable food and livelihood security.

Available in Hindi and English, Venu Bharati is published by Aproop Nirman, and is available for Rs. 250 here.

Speaking of Bamboo, the National Mission on Bamboo Applications, structured as part of the National Common Minimum Programme, has been tasked with creating the basis for enlarging the bamboo sector, and with supporting the efforts of the Government of India towards augmenting economic opportunity, income and employment. They list other useful and documentaries on livelihood issues and traditional wisdom related to bamboo:

In The Forest Hangs a Bridge
Sanjay Kak
39 minute Documentary film
Rs. 500
A film about the building of a thousand foot suspension bridge by the people of an Adi village, an evocation of the tribal community that makes it possible, and a reflection on the strengths - and fragility - of the idea of community. Available here.

Traditional Wisdom and Cane Crafts of Northeast India
MP Ranjan, Nilam Iyer and Ghanshyam Pandya, National Institute of Design
Rs. 300 (paperback) and Rs. 370 (hardback)
Many structures in the Northeast and other parts of the country depend on bamboo; indeed it is most sacrilegious to use concrete and steel for habitations in places where bamboo is, or could be, available in abundance. Modern designers and architects have not yet expended any real effort in that direction. This book will encourage them to go further. On SwB, here