Even though there is huge potential for bamboo application in the urban housing considering its sustainability character and availability in the North-east, the common aspiration of general public for housing in the region and Manipur in particular are always associated with bricks and cement as their construction materials not to speak of bamboos in urban Manipur.
This is because of lack of awareness, skill and technologies, availability of commercially viable (bamboo) species besides lack of support from the concerned authorities, according to assistant mission director, N Somorendro of State Bamboo Mission which had identified 35 bamboo species out of the reported 54 in Manipur.
“We also need take up large scale plantation of commercially viable species (such as maribob, wanam, khok-wa etc) as bamboos are fastest growing trees,” he opined.
On the other hand, Director Renu Khosla of New Delhi based Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence observed that procuring innovation is harder in the government because there is no model to follow.
“Awareness on the comparability of the material is needed among the people. The idea of artisan architecture needs to be raised in the minds of people for change to happen,” she added.
Even though housing is essential element of urbanization it must be at the centre of the actions towards sustainable and inclusive urban development including ensuring equal opportunities and better living conditions.
With rising consumption levels, India is already facing supply constraints and import dependence of key materials in certain sectors. The demand for resources in the future will be increasingly huge and may eventually lead to worsening of impact on economy, environment, and access to resources, if not addressed in a timely manner.
For instance, under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana scheme, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MHUA) is planning to construct 20 million affordable houses by 2022 in the country.
In Manipur too, the government has approved construction of 26,348 houses so far (out of estimated demand of 46,360 houses) for 24 out of 27 towns through Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs in urban areas.
This will give a lot of pressure on the land and environment.
But interestingly, the State Government has no particular instruction or building construction criteria or rule and regulation which the urban beneficiaries should follow while procuring the specific housing materials in building their respective houses under the central sponsored housing for all schemes in the region.
“It depends on the concerned beneficiaries in the urban areas whether they like to construct their houses with locally available resources or not,” Director N Gitkumar of Municipal Administration, Housing & Urban Development who is also the chief town planner of the state said.
On the other hand, MHUA had emphasized the initiatives taken by the Central Government towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals and alignment to the New Urban Agenda which outlines principles or implementation along its five main pillars: national urban policies, urban legislation and regulations, urban planning and design, local economy and municipal finance and local implementation.
Stating that bamboo based construction has an important role to play in this endeavour, especially in the North-east, the vice president Zeenat Niazi of Development Alternatives (DA) when contacted opined that the construction sector needs to reduce its energy and resource footprint, so as to contribute to the country’s climate mitigation targets and direct the economic development towards sustainability.
DA is the world’s first social enterprise dedicated to sustainable development, to deliver socially equitable, environmentally and economically scalable development outcome.
She also opined that the character of a north eastern town/city needs to respond to the geography, climate and local resource availability. It also needs to respond to possibility of building products and services that can be produced and delivered locally so as to reduce transportation costs, give a boost to local livelihoods and economies.
So the focus would have to be on small scale rural/semi-urban industries that utilize bamboo to produce materials such as roofing shingles, roof trusses, wall panels, floor boards, door-window frames etc. These could be locally supplied to urban and rural housing projects. These will need to be supported through a concerted skill building or rather skill enhancement programme as Bamboo application skills do exist traditionally.