Bio-Fuel Plan: States compete to grow oil on soil

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, September 4: | Updated: Sep 4 2007, 22:36pm hrs
Taking the cue from the Planning Commissions suggestion for largescale Jatropha plantation for bio-fuel production, the state governments are now busy setting their own targets.

Planning Commission has suggested Jatropha cultivation in 400,000 hectare land for four years in the first phase and in 2.5 million hectare in the second phase for meeting the needs of 10% doping of auto-fuel.

On August 27, the Orissa government formulated a policy for encouraging plantation of Jatropha and Karanja in 20 lakh hectare of degraded land. The state government has announced incentives to panchayats, cooperatives, self help groups (SHGs) and farmers for undertaking largescale cultivation of bio-fuel crops. The policy has claimed that the bio-fuel crop plantation would not only help production of 14,000 kilo litre of bio-fuels but also produce 42,000 tonne of organic matter for soil fertility and create jobs for 100 million mandays.

However, the civil society groups have criticised the governments bio-fuel policy and have said that it would amount to diversion of land from food crops to fuel and would ultimately endanger food security of million. Debjeet Sarangi of the Orissa Coalition for Food Safety and Sovereignty (OCFSS) said : Area under crop cultivation has already declined. Most of the degraded lands can be brought back to cultivation. Instead of ensuring food security the government is rolling out red carpet to corporate houses to undertake largescale Jatropha cultivation>

According to the state governments Economic Survey per capita availability of cultivable land has declined from 0.39 hectare in 1950-51 to 0.14 hectare in 2004-05. About 999,000 hectare farm land was diverted to non-agriculture use in 2004-05. Also 28,044,965 hectare forest area have been diverted for non-forest use.

Andhra Pradesh government has entered into a formal agreement with Reliance Industries for Jatropha plantation in 200 acre land in Kakinada. Chhattisgarh government has decided to plant 160 million saplings of Jatropha in all the 16 districts of the state with the aim of becoming a bio-fuel self-reliant state by 2015 and plans to earn Rs 40 billion annually by selling seeds. The central government has provided Rs 135 million to Chhattisgarh government, this year, for developing Jatropha nurseries.

Tamil Nadu government has entered into contracts with Mohan Breweries and Distilleries, Shiva Distilleries, Dharani Sugars and Chemicals and Riverway Agro Products for largescale Jatropha plantation in the state. The state government has abolished purchase tax on Jatropha.

In Rajasthan Jatropha plantation have been undertaken in Udaipur, Kota, Sikar, Bansara, Chittor and Churu districts. Kerala has also launched a programme for largescale Jatropha cultivation.

From September, this year, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd and the Maharashtra State Farming Corporation will undertake Jatropha plantation on 500 acre land in Nasik and Aurangabad. The State Bank of India has signed a MoU with DI Mohan Bio Oils Ltd to give loans to contracted farmers to the tune of Rs 1.3 billion for Jatropha plantation.