North East India’s Bamboo Philosophy – An Inspiration for Sustainable Future

I met Tage Taki in Hapoli, the main market of Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh. He invited me at his home for a cup of tea. He was helping us with setting the campsite for Ziro Festival of Music. His home looked like one of those shacks that you construct in Fallout 4 but instead of wood, it was made entirely of bamboo.

During my first visit to Manipur, I planned a trip to Loktak Lake. I got in touch with Ashok Sampacha and booked a stay with him at Loktak Aquamarine, a pretty little cottage in the middle of the floating lake. The tiny patch of land where his homestay is situated is repaired with bamboos so that guests can walk around the land properly without falling in water.

Bamboo is North East India’s lifeline. From Assam to Nagaland and Arunachal, bamboo finds use in a way or another. It has many advantages over the conventional building techniques and it is really inspiring to see how one can make building and architecture so sustainable.

Cost effective and replaceable

Bamboo is cost effective and this is way the poorer parts of North East India prefer creating their homes using this material. Bamboo is found everywhere in this region but is also grown by folks in their own backyards. Because of this, the material is available everywhere.

But not only this, because bamboo is so easily found and grown, home renovation proves easy. And it is important to change the defective bamboo pieces as they start rotting if they are exposed to rain for a long period of time. And since it is North East India, the rainfall is so common that yearly replacement is a necessity. Imagine doing this with brick and mortar.

Sturdiness proves useful

Bamboo is so sturdy that folks are able to create double storied homes with this material only. Bamboo floors can withstand load of people standing or walking and the rooftops prevent rainwater from sipping inside. Not only houses but bamboo is also used for bridges and roads. You can imagine the strength that bamboos must be having which proves so useful in making a bridge.

Environment friendly

The plants grow without any additional effort and cutting of wood doesn’t lead to deforestation. Unlike brick and wood, the bamboo doesn’t harm the environment during the preparation process. Since bamboo’s lifecycle is longer, the houses don’t really require any emergency re-construction process. Even when replacement needs arise, they simply choose a set of bamboo from their backyard.

Diverse selection

Bamboo is diverse in North East India. There are many verities and each one comes with its own specialities. Tribal communities use this resource for food, shelter, furniture, handicrafts, medicines and various ethno-religious purpose. They have developed and diversified their skill of working with bamboo. A great section of the ethnic population finds their source of income dependent on craftsmanship in this material.

Seamless Pipeline Connection

Bamboos are hollow from inside because of which river tribes use it effectively to create pipeline connection. At festivals like Hornbill, the bamboo sticks are used to supply water in the festival venue.

For the past 200 years, tribal farmers residing in the Khasi and the Jaintia hills have used bamboo to make pipes for an effective drip irrigation system. This network provides almost 18 to 20 litres of water to the farmers to water their betel nut and black pepper crops.

Helpful in creating ethical tourism and uplifting lives of local population through tourism

Apart from these practical uses, bamboo has been a great resource to promote handicraft tourism in North East India. The festivals proudly showcase bamboo hats, baskets, vase, chairs, etc. It is a popular food ingredient, the mouth watery ‘bamboo shoot pork’ is widely popular across the entire Northeast India and is in a high demand among tourists. Bamboo is also a prop for many dance forms including Bihu in Assam, Cheraw in Mizoram and Kuki Bamboo Dance of Nagaland are a few of the notable ones that will win your heart.

Bamboo is the bloodline of Nagaland. Their sustainable use of Bamboo is something that world should take lessons from as everyone is looking for more sustainable ways to integrate in their lifestyle.

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