Recently, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari inaugurated India’s first refinery plant in Pune that will produce fuel oil from rice and wheat straw, cotton stalk, cane trash and corn cobs.
The preferred raw material for biofuel in India is Jatropa. This crop is often cultivated in degraded lands but requires irrigation to produce the seeds that carry the oil. Gadkari has already done excellent work in producing power from municipal sewage and solid waste. It appears he wants to repeat that performance with biofuels. But there is a fundamental difference between biofuel crops like Jatropa and municipal sewage. Municipal sewage is a “waste” product. We have to spend money to treat it before reusing or discharging it in the rivers. On the other hand, biofuels are produced from agricultural wastes like wheat straw which have alternative uses like cattle feed; or crops like Jatropa that lay claim on our scarce land and water resources that can be used to produce grasses and forests.
Jatropa can grow on degraded lands. It produces a poisonous seed that yields biodiesel. A friend in Dungarpur in Rajasthan runs a NGO. He started cultivating jatropa on two acres of degrade land. He is happy with the income. Seeing his success, about 100 farmers in the area have started cultivation of this plant. The cultivation of Jatropa is good if done on lands not suitable for crop cultivation. Then it does not compete with other uses of the land such as the production of dry land crops like bajra and ragi. We must give encouragement to such cultivation. Read More…
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