Odisha bamboo garden is a students' delight

Odisha bamboo garden is a students' delight

Odisha bamboo garden is a students' delight

A bamboo tree  is useful to people in many ways--from being used as furniture to firewood. But, not many may be keen to see a bamboo tree. However, a garden in Odisha capital Bhubaneswar is reserved exclusively for bamboo trees.  

The well-preserved garden is located inside the Medicinal Plant Knowledge Centre (MPKC) set up by the state government’s forest and environment department at Patrapara on the outskirts of the temple city.

“The garden is definitely a hidden treasure of Bhubaneswar which attracts hundreds of students and researchers from different parts of the country every year,” said Bishnu Charan Behera, the forest department official in charge of the unique “bambusetum”.

Agreed Rajesh Biswal, a student of a city-based college who had a chance to visit the garden a few months ago. “Bhubaneswar is known for its ancient temples. But there are some spots in the city which have still remained unknown to many. And the bamboo garden is certainly one among them.”

Established in 2011 on five acres, the garden has 80 varieties of bamboo trees, including some rare species collected from different parts of the country and abroad. Bamboo trees have been collected from countries such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The Bhubaneswar garden is considered the number one bamboo garden in the country. Also, not many states have exclusive bamboo garden. The species include Phyllostachys Nigra which is popular as Black Bamboo, Bambusa Aureostriat which is known as Yellow Bamboo and Bambusa Sirosina or White Bamboo. 

“About 30 bamboo varieties we have are very rare,” said Behera. The garden also has a bamboo variety which looks like a small bush with a height of less than a foot. Usually bamboo trees are very tall and thin. 

The garden was set up for research scholars and students to have an opportunity to study on different kinds and varieties of bamboo trees collected from across the globe. In fact, nearly 2,000 students as well as research scholars from different states visit the garden every year. “The garden was basically set up for academic purposes,” said Behera.

However, according to some forest department officials, the garden was also an attempt to preserve the old culture and heritage of Odisha.“As it is widely known, in ancient times, Odisha had rich and vibrant trade links with several other countries. At that time bamboo was widely used in the eastern state. Even merchants from the state were carrying items like saree and cloths in boxes made of bamboo. Therefore, the garden is also in a way of preserving our old heritage and history,” said P K Mishra, divisional forest officer, Bhubaneswar.

There is a proposal to expand the garden. “We want to keep more varieties of bamboo trees and take the number to over 100,” the garden officials said.The garden’s journey has not been a rosy one. It had its share of troubles. Phailin, the major cyclone that had ripped apart the coastal belt of Odisha in 2013, badly damaged the bamboo garden as well as the MPKC, which has about 480 varieties of medicinal plants including a few rare ones. Several rare bamboo trees were uprooted. They were replanted or replaced. “We have already restored the garden as it was during pre-Phailin days,” said Behera.

Likewise, it faces constant threat from locals and the “land grabbers” who were not keen on establishment of either the MPKC or the bamboo garden at the present site. The forest department officials said, since January attempts had already been made to set the bamboo garden on fire three times. “Only because of our alertness, we managed to douse the fire before it could cause any major damage to the bamboo trees,” they maintained.

The MPKC and the bamboo garden have no compound wall but have wired fencing. The officials feel that there is an urgent need for a compound around the garden and the knowledge centre.

Before both institutions were set up, the government land was  encroached upon by locals and a group of “land mafias” who had built shops and were using them for commercial purposes.

Neither the MPKC nor the bamboo garden is currently opened to the general public or tourists though the forest department is allowing residents of nearby colonies for morning walk. There is  strong demand from residents to open the gates of the two institutions, particularly the bamboo garden, for common people.

Many in the forest department feel that the government may have to succumb to the public pressure sooner than later. Apart from the bamboo garden, the premises of the medicinal plant knowledge centre has a water body which is home to nearly 40 varieties of aquatic medicine plants which may also become a major attraction for the tourists and visitors.

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