Kamesh Salam, who is at present in Belgium attending the bamboo world congress; former president of World Bamboo Organisation, Bamboo and Environment consultant to not only India but also Austria and Bhutan, and many other organisations. At present serving as the executive Director of South Asia Bamboo Foundation, he is a busy man. Here is an interview of him, of his art and his concern of environment taken through e-mail by Imphal Free Press.
IFP:Tell us something about your education, of your days in Ram Krishna Mission and Punjab University?
Kamesh:My schooling in RKM , Purulia and my college in PU has broaden my exposure to the rich and variant India culture that shaped my career. My curricular activities in fine arts in School learning under renowned gurus have help in my creativity. My association with International community students as the President of Jaycees Continental Club, Chandigarh has also help in developing my networking skills with international Community. The industrial exposure obtained while I was working as a student also helped me to shape my work culture.
IFP: What prompted you to get interested in Bamboo and Environment by and large? Any inspiring event/individual worth mentioning?
Looking back to my state or the region, I wanted to promote some materials which is not imported from outside but can provide gainful employment through value addition. It is bamboo. My maternal Grandfather Shri Keisham Tombi Singh who was one of the founders of handicrafts and handloom in the state has influenced a lot in my early childhood days. He did a lot to promote pineapple and woolen fiber etc. in the state. But not of a success. As such I found bamboo and cane as an alternative apart from the environment benefits we all know.
K: You were also member of the All India Handicraft Board before you zeroed in to bamboo. Tell us more about it?
I was one of the first member of AIHB of ministry of Textiles but my contribution was as it was mostly a policy making body and meetings were erratic my inputs were not significant . But during the NDA government I was made the Board of Director of the North Eastern Handicrafts and Handloom Development Corporation Ltd. (NEHHDC) for five years, where I did contributed a lot for the promotion of handicrafts and handlooms of the region. But to be frank, this corporation is working only for the bigger states and states like Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram etc. are totally ignored in their promotional programs in spite of my repeated inputs.
IFP: How is your collaboration with the Manipur Cycle Club? We heard that you have purposely come from Guwahati for a workshop? Could you share a bit about the workshop?
K: I have found a dedicated team in the MCC and that’s how I came in touch with them. My exposure in West Africa and my interaction with Bamboo cycle designer Mr. Mc Calfree in San Francisco during the American Bamboo Society Annual Meet in November 2008 has made me exposed to bamboo cycles. Also MCC had plans in its agenda to promote bamboo bicycle as such I found them a good partner in this venture. For this workshop bamboo has been procured from Katlamara, Tripura called “kanakias” in local language. We have also engaged renowned Manipur Designer Mr.Sukumar Haobam, first NID Graduate from Manipur, Mr. Lishram Bhubol Singh, Bamboo expert and State Awardees and a group of talented artisans and glass fiber technologist under guidance of Mr. Kula Singh of Manipur museum. Also with inputs of the dedicated MCC team the workshop has been a great experience and an experiment.
IFP: What are the achievements of World Bamboo Organization particularly during your tenure as the president of the organization?
K: In my tenure I did tried to bring the researchers close to the developmental programs as such instead of discussing only scientific research papers, developmental agencies were also given platform at the bamboo congress. Also during my time I did tried to make world Bamboo congress as self-sustaining programs as it’s difficult to get government funding for such activities. Also another issue was to project bamboo development outside China.
IFP: What are the main issues which are to be addressed in the coming world Bamboo conference, to be held in Belgium this April?
K: The 5 day event will include lectures divided into distinct categories relating to Science and Society (culture and economics) and Bamboo Design, Innovation and Architecture (constructions and products). Focus will be on current status and future potentials include Regional Reports and conclude with a workshop entitled, “Bamboo – a 50-year Perspective”. Another day will consist of optional tours of interest. The investment meet will be attended by the policy makers, bamboo experts, Officials from EU and UN, investors, Apex Chamber of trade and industry associations, bamboo Industrial groups etc. from South Asia and Europe and America. High level delegations from Indian states are attending the meet to focus investment in their states including the Chief Minister of Meghalaya.
With a rapidly increasing interest in bamboo products and materials along with skyrocketing demand for information related to bamboo, the World Bamboo Congress will be the VENUE for people seeking information about bamboo as well as progressive corporations with focus on new bamboo products for the green market. The World Bamboo Congress is positioned as a catalyst for dissemination of the most current scientific and field research information available worldwide in order to effectively expand the world’s current bamboo plantations as well as planting areas where selective species will flourish.
IFP: How is India faring with the international Bamboo movement?
K: India has 20% of World’s bamboo resources but has not done well in all fronts as far as bamboo development is concern. The present system of cultivation and harvesting is still unscientific and the utilization is also mostly for paper and pulp, house hold and domestic consumption, illegal exports, handicrafts etc. With the lack of a clear policy by the Indian Government there is no proper direction in the bamboo development growth in the country. On the other hand China and South East Asian countries are doing very well, as such we need to look toward east if we have to develop the Indian bamboo or the North Eastern part where more than 50% of Bamboo resources of India are available.
IFP: Why is the National Bamboo Mission under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation? Has not the Ministry of Environment and Forest any role to play in this regard?
K: As a person who was one of the architects of formulating the National Bamboo Mission, by preparing the Detail Project Report under the Planning Commission of India; the recommendation was to put bamboo under the ministry of Agriculture, so that is taken like any other plantation crop such as tea, rubber, coffee, jute, spice, coconut etc. Structurally, the National Bamboo Mission is chaired by Agriculture Minister. The highest decision making body of NBM includes the Minister of Forest and Environment. Below, there is the official-level National Steering Committee chaired by the Agriculture Secretary. Similar bodies have been created in the states as well. NBM funds released to the Forest Departments for Commercial Plantation of Bamboo are in the form of 100% grant. In almost all the states of India the National Bamboo Mission activities are being implemented by the State Forest Department. Practically you can say that the Agriculture Ministry provides fund to forest department to implement the Bamboo Mission activities. Also the National Bamboo Mission Cell , the Ministry of Agriculture has no technical staffs to run the mission as mandated.