Sri Lanka unveils first bamboo Energy Forum with UNIDO backing

In a first effort of its nature, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Colombo is collaboratively unveiling a Forum on Bamboo for Energy and Industrial Sustainability on 25 October.

The forum, organised by UNIDO in collaboration with the Institution of Engineers of Sri Lanka (IESL), takes place on Friday October 25 at the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL), Colombo. The speakers and the audience are among professionals and investors from different sectors along with experts from biomass energy and bamboo plantations. The Forum is organised under the “Bamboo Processing Sri Lanka” project, launched by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF). The objective of the project is to develop a bamboo supply chain and product industry in Sri Lanka.

The objective of this “Evergreen Sri Lanka” Forum is to build awareness and transfer the necessary knowledge on bamboo as a biomass energy source and to promote bamboo as a substitute for hardwood in an eco-friendly manner. “Evergreen Sri Lanka” is organized as an interactive discussion creating opportunities for the audience to discuss and confront this upcoming bamboo for an energy topic in Sri Lanka.

Bamboo is an economically viable crop, which becomes profitable after five years from initial planting. A bamboo culm on maturity 60 – 70% can be utilized to create value added products such as handcrafts, furniture, etc, while the residue becomes a valuable source of energy. Bamboo has a number of desirable fuel characteristic such as low ash content and low surface moisture. The high heat value (HHV) of bamboo is higher than most identified fuel wood and scores really close to the commonly used, rubber wood. In addition, the moisture content of bamboo is relatively low (8-23%) in comparison to other type of fuel crops, which makes it a profitable and sustainable burning alternative. Yet, the number of studies on bamboo biomass is still limited. Bamboo is very popular for being a source of food and material for housing and furniture; however, the potential of bamboo as a biomass is yet to be exploited. Particularly in Sri Lanka, bamboo has never been a major plantation for many years, leading to missed economic opportunities; exceptionally, bamboo can be intercropped with soya beans, turmeric, ginger and pepper, enhancing its planting potential.

At the moment, Sri Lanka’s forest cover is at 29%, worryingly highlighting the forest loss over the past few years. Island-wide, there has been a deforestation threat posed to natural forests due to unsustainable and illegal sourcing of wood –including industrial processing. The national goal towards this matter is to increase the forest cover up to 32% by 2020. Thus, the promotion of bamboo for industrial energy.

Industrial sector claims around 25% of Sri Lanka’s annual energy consumption. Research on the country’s bamboos shows that 10 to 14 varieties of bamboo being present and some of them are widely used for household needs and craft making.