Versatile, Practical and Decorative Bamboo
Sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s timber”, bamboo is becoming popular around the world as an eco-friendly, sustainable product with a myriad of uses. This amazing plant has long been appreciated in Bangladesh where bamboo is used to make ladders, scaffolding, baskets, mats, fencing, toys, handicrafts and fishing rods, as well as in the construction of dwellings. In some parts of Bangladesh, bamboo leaves are used for thatched roofing and as fodder for animals. It is an important raw material in the production of paper, including hand-made paper, and is grown as windbreaks and to prevent soil erosion. During the rainy season the young tender bamboo shoots, known locally as banskorol are enjoyed as a tasty and nutritious vegetable.
There are a recorded 26 species of bamboo in Bangladesh, occurring naturally or cultivated throughout the country, except in waterlogged areas. Belonging to the grass family Poaceae, bamboo is incredibly fast growing, with some species in ideal conditions growing as much as 100cm in a 24-hour period, although the average growth rate is between 3 and 10cm in 24 hours.
In addition to being a versatile raw material, bamboo is a very attractive plant and often features in landscaped gardens. When grown as a raw material, bamboo is most prized for its culm, or stalk, which grows quickly once breaking through the soil as a conical shoot. It reaches its full height within 30 to 60 days, after which it can take between two and three years to thicken and reach maturity, which is indicated by changing color from green to a golden-yellow. Bamboo can be propagated from the seed produced when the plant flowers, or through offset planting.
Particularly in the rural areas of Bangladesh, bamboo is a relatively low cost material from which everyday practical and decorative items are made. When producing basketry, bamboo is split lengthways and made pliable before being woven into different shapes and sizes, some being dyed with natural substances to form a pattern. Tea pickers in the plantations of Sylhet can be seen with conical shaped bamboo baskets over their shoulders to carry the freshly picked leaves, with mango pickers using broad based baskets of bamboo. Wherever you travel in Bangladesh, you are likely to come across items made of bamboo, including some decorative keepsakes you can buy and take home.