Bongu chicken popularity begins to affect bamboo

Rajahmundry: Bamboo chicken, a tribal delicacy, has become increasingly popular among tourists visiting Maredumilli agency in East Godavari district. So much so that the authorities of the forest department have fined 36 non-tribal people a total of `1 lakh for illegal and indiscriminate felling of bamboo plants for use in the recipe.

Bamboo chicken is prepared by marinating raw chicken in some spices, stuffing it into pieces of bamboo stalk, and cooking it on firewood. No oil or water is added to the chicken; as it cooks, it absorbs moisture from the bamboo stalk. The dish is prepared and served fresh, and is meant to be consumed immediately. Each piece of bamboo stalk can only be used once.

Mr Amarnath Reddy, a local tribal, began preparing bamboo chicken for foreign guests visiting Maredumilli nearly a decade ago, at the behest of the forest department. The delicacy quickly gained popularity among tourists and it began to be prepared commercially. As the forests in Maredumilli agency had dense bamboo plantations, people began cutting them down illegally in order to prepare Bamboo Chicken. As the demand for the delicacy increased, so did the number of bamboo plants being felled.

Over the years, a number of small shops have mushroomed on either side of the road leading to the Vana Vihari Eco-Tourism Centre. Massive stocks of bamboo stalk can be seen piled up at these shops. Fearing that the illegal and indiscriminate felling of bamboo plants may cause their depletion, the authorities of the Forest Department have swung into action and identified 36 non-tribal families that have migrated from Anakapalli of Visakhapatnam district to Maredumilli and are involved in the preparation of Bamboo Chicken for tourists. Surprisingly, not a single local tribal is involved in this thriving business that offers large profit margins.

Since there is no conclusive data as to how many trees have been felled so far by each family, the authorities have imposed a compounding fee of `1 lakh on all 36 families as per the norms of the AP Forest Act of 1967. Each family has been made to pay between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000, depending on the business done in the recent past. The authorities have warned them against illegal felling and asked them to purchase the bamboo stalks, which are available at nominal prices, from legal sources.

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