Foundation, Concrete and Earthquake Engineering


One of the most enduring images of India’s freedom struggle is that of Mahatma Gandhi setting out on the Salt March in 1930, on a 140 kilometre trek from Ahmedabad to Dandi. All he had by the way of support were the multitudes behind him, and the bamboo stave by his side. The bamboo in his hands, today more than ever before, is one of the newest hopes for a sustainable future. Found in almost every kind of climate and region, from cold mountains to tropical forests and marsh lands, the bamboo is the fastest growing plant on our planet. Environmentalists believe that if bamboo were used in a major way in afforestation programs the world over, there would be a significant reduction in global warming. Here are some of its other benefits to humans and their environments --
  • It is one of the cheapest renewable sources of building material available to man.
  • At the same time, it provides rural communities with a sustainable livelihood.
  • It is one of the fastest growing components of forests, and thus plays an important role in the development of animal habitats.
  • It costs neither a lot of energy nor money, to cultivate.
  • Bamboo has been an important part of art, music, tradition and ceremonies through out the Asian continent.

There are approximately 91 general and about 1000 species of bamboo around the globe. These vary in height from about one foot plants to giant bamboos that grow over 100 feet. Broadly speaking, Bamboo is divided into 2 main classifications – Running Bamboo and Clumping Bamboo.
  1. Running Bamboo – This type of Bamboo travels under the soil using creeping rhizomes and emerges out of the ground at a distance from the original source. This variety is normally found in temperate climate countries like China and Japan. It is very effective in binding the soil together as the rhizome intersection is extensive and strong. Each joint of the Running bamboo stem has a single bud, which in many cases grow to become a new bamboo clump.
  2. Clumping Bamboo – In this variety, the clump and the rhizome are a single entity, in which the upper portion of the rhizome has buds. The bud then grow into a new rhizome which turns upwards and emerges, from the ground, as a second clump close to the original. This variety can also be grown from cuttings. They are normally found more in tropical and semi tropical climates.

Growing Bamboos
Bamboos need plenty of water in a well drained, fertile soil to grow optimally. This is why they are most commonly found on river banks or the edges of swamps, never directly touching the water. During the dry season, bamboo clumps lie dormant, spreading through shoots sprouting from their base once it rains. The bamboo is an extremely sturdy plant and is naturally quite resistant to pests though the occasional Running Bamboo plant is prone to the Bamboo Mites which make a small but distinctive web on the plant. Some bamboo varieties may also be grown indoors.

Precautions During Bamboo Cultivation
  • Large bamboo produces large woody underground rhizomes that could damage paving, buildings or drainage systems if planted too close to these or other structures.
  • The roots which grow from the rhizomes of clumping bamboo are long and fibrous like those of palms or large clumping grasses. These are useful in stabilising the soil and preventing erosion, but may also create problems. Being flexible and fibrous rather than hard and woody, these roots will grow into and along slotted drainage pipes or any cracks in metal or ceramic pipes.
  • Bamboo rhizomes grow underground to emerge quite a distance away from the mother plant. So if planted in a wet, well drained and rich soil, bamboo can quickly spread and strangle other trees and plants in the area.
  • Once established as a grove, it is difficult to completely remove bamboo without digging up the entire network of underground rhizomes. If bamboo must be removed, an alternative to digging it up is to cut down the culms, and then repeatedly mow down new shoots as they arise, until the root system exhausts its energy supply and dies. If any leaves are allowed to photosynthesize the bamboo survives and will keep spreading.

Traditional Uses
The bamboo is a highly useful plant, a renewable resource with multiple uses. It has played a crucial role in the life of people all across south and south east Asia. Here are some of them --
  • Bamboo pulp is used for making paper
  • It may be burnt as fuel
  • Bamboo is known not only for the aesthetic beauty it imparts to its surroundings, but also for its tensile strength. Research has shown that during structural engineering tests, bamboo has a much higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel and a higher compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete. Which is why, for long, it has been a standard material in construction.
  • Its leaves are a good fodder for animals and fish.
  • Bamboo is used to make simple bowls, glasses etc by the simple expedient of cutting it from above and below a node.
  • It is used to make musical instruments. The flutes of Benares are a good example of this.
  • Many canes of bamboo lashed together, are still used as rafts and boats across the world.
  • In 1854, Henricg Globel, a German watchmaker made the first true light bulb. He used a carbonised bamboo filament inside a glass bulb. In 1879, Thomas Alva Edison too used bamboo splits as filaments, working with bamboo obtained from Japan. The bamboo filament tended to last about forty hours before burning out.
  • Bamboo is an important ingredient in many world cuisines. Its shoots are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and are consumed in a variety of ways. They are sometimes pickled and used as a condiment, or used with other vegetables in a stir fry. Bamboo sap is also used to make a sweet wine while its leaves are used as wrappers for steaming food. The inner hollow in the bamboo stalks are also used to cook rice and boil soup. Bamboo along with other ingredients is used for making pancakes as well.
  • Bamboo plays an important role in the Chinese medicine system as well as in Ayurveda. Its roots are used to treat kidney problems and bamboo secretions are considered helpful in alleviating symptoms of asthma. Its sap is said to reduce fever and roots and leaves have properties that have been used to treat cancer. The Chinese also use bamboo to treat many infections. Bamboo skin prevents bacterial growth due to its antioxidant properties.

Modern Uses of Bamboo
Though one has stepped into the modern world today with changing lifestyles and choices, bamboo is still used in the same way across large parts of the world as it was used in the past. In fact it is rightly believed by many that no other plant has had the impact that bamboo has had on so many cultures over such an extended period of time. But now, with the help of technology, scores of new uses have been found for the age old bamboo. Here are some --
  • Bamboo furniture
  • Bamboo flooring
  • Bamboo blinds
  • Bamboo is a very comfortable eco fibre which is naturally anti-microbial. Due to the presence of micro pores, the fabric absorb three times more moisture than cotton, making it very comfortable to wear in the hot summer.

Did You Know?
  • Bamboo can grow about 4 feet in under 24 hours.
  • A Bamboo plant can be continuously re-harvested every 3 years, without causing any negative impact on the soil and the environment.
  • The dense roots of the bamboo plant are so deep into the soil and remain firmly intact that they prevent soil erosion in a very effective manner.
  • It retains twice as much water in the underground watershed.
  • It consumes nitrogen and thus remove pollution.
  • Bamboo plant produces 35% more oxygen than any other tree species. Bamboo also protects against ultraviolet rays.
  • Soft bamboo shoots, stems, and leaves are the major food source of the endangered Giant Panda of China.
  • The plant marketed as "lucky bamboo" is actually an entirely unrelated species, Dracaena sanderiana.
  • Bamboo is the only living thing that survived the Hiroshima atomic blast. It also provided the initial re- greening of that place.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo is, strangely enough, not a bamboo at all. It is a resilient member of the lily family that grows in the dark, tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and Africa. Lucky Bamboo has long been associated with the Eastern practice of Feng Shui - or the bringing of natural elements of water, fire, earth, wood and metal into balance within the environment. It is believed to be an ideal example of the thriving wood and water element, with the addition of a red ribbon sometimes tied around the stalks - which is believed to "fire" the positive flow of energy or chi in the room.

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