Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Jatropha: bane or boon?

Jatropha belongs to Euphorbiacea family. This is a potential source of bio-diesel [Jatropha curcas seeds]. India's total biodiesel requirement is projected to grow to 3.6 Million Metric Tons in 2011-12, with the positive performance of the domestic automobile industry. On 12 September 2008, the Indian Government announced its 'National Biofuel Policy'. It aims to meet 20% of India's diesel demand with fuel derived from plants. That will mean setting aside 140,000 square kilometres of land. Presently fuel yielding plants cover less than 5,000 square kilometers. The former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, is one of the strong advocaters of jatropha cultivation for production of bio-diesel. In January 2009, Time Magazine described the Jatropha as the potentially next big biofuel. The hardy Jatropha is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil (average: 34.4%). The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production. About 200 districts in 19 potential states have been identified on the basis of availability of wasteland, rural poverty ratio, below poverty line (BPL) census and agro-climatic conditions suitable for jatropha cultivation, by Centre for Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel (CJP). Jatropha has higher efficiency than other seeds oil, when compared with diesel.. Jatropha have also some medicinal importance as well as toxic. . Every part of Jatropha has some importance. In India, there are some research institutes and companies involved in Jatropha based biodiesel research and production. Even after all this, there are some problems before farmers; according to Hannah Smith of GBM, " Jatropha has low yields and uneconomical costs of production. What is more this crop needs a large amount of irrigation or rainfall and has a low performance in dry zones. Contrary to what has been stated, Jatropha is vulnerable to a significant number of pests and diseases. Jatropha should not be promoted among smallholder farmers as a monoculture or intercropped plantation crop […] We recommend [report of Jatropha Reality Check] that all stakeholders re-evaluate their activities promoting Jatropha among smallholder farmers”. Furthermore, the implementation of biofuel production may potentially have catastrophic consequences for local wildlife and indigenous communities these includes". Another problem is that there are no specific seeds collection centres and market for this. So promotion of Jatropha must be with industrial infrastructure.

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