As always, these kind of investments have both positive environmental and social impacts as well as potential risks related to sustainability.
Bamboo cultivation and harvesting
The main sustainability risks are related to bamboo cultivation and harvesting. Joint venture has agreed on the risk mitigation plan based on a sustainability assessment. This plan covers requirements for sustainable bamboo sourcing, traceability and the origin of bamboo as well as requirements for procurement and labour practices.
The joint venture has conducted a feasibility study of bamboo which indicates that abundant bamboo resource is available in the area and the required quantity of 300,000 tonnes of dry bamboo is easily sourced. This amount represents some 1% of the bamboo resource in the area. The joint ventures’ sustainable bamboo cultivation and harvesting requirements also ensure that no depletion takes place as planting of new stocks is required to compensate the harvested amount. Currently the full potential of bamboo cultivation has not been utilized and it is estimated that introduction of scientifically sound cultivation and harvesting methods will significantly increase the productivity.
NRL has signed a MoU with UNIDO for developing the community based supply chain for bamboo. NRL is also cooperating with JFMCS (Joint Forest management committees) for sourcing bamboo through community involvement and with state governmental bamboo developmental agencies such as Arunachal Pradesh bamboo Development Agency (APBRDA) and Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency (NBDA).
Possible impacts on the Kaziranga National Park
The joint venture has drafted a logistic plan for the transportation of the bamboo and according to that some 10% of the transportation will pass through the Kaziranga National park. NRL estimates that this will not increase significantly the impact of traffic on the ecosystem. However, the joint venture will conduct a biodiversity assessment to assess the impact of transportation before the start of the operations and implement the necessary mitigation measures. Also the possibility to transport bamboo through railroad will be explored.
This investment can have a big impact on local communities, including the marginalized households, by improving their means of livelihood. As such this investment will provide employment opportunities for thousands of bamboo growers, extraction workers, processing centres and transportation companies. In the long run it will help local communities to become self-sustainable and enhance their living standards. In addition this project has a clear role in a fight against climate change in line with the National Bio-Fuel Policy 2009 targeting to substitute petrol with bio-ethanol.
The actual risk for child labour as defined by ILO is low. However, we are aware that as the bamboo cultivation is mostly conducted by villagers, the possibility of children being present helping their parents in trivial works cannot be ruled out. Also in this case children are having access to education.
UN Declaration of Human Rights, UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and ILO core labour standards are the founding principles which shall be adapted sustainably to provide safe and healthy working environment both in supply chain and inside the plant.