By- Smt. Kalpana Palkhiwala :Biofuel is defined as liquid or gas transportation fuel derived from biomass. Agricultural products specifically grown for biofuel production include corn and soybeans, in the United State; rapeseed, wheat and sugar beet in Europe; sugar cane in Brazil; palm oil in South-East Asia and jatropha and pongamia in India. Pongamia pinnata is a forestry species and planted mostly in refractory soil such as alkaline soil.
Role of Biofuels in Carbon Neutral Emission
Bio fuels and other forms of renewable energy aim to be carbon neutral. This means that the carbon released during the use of the fuel is reabsorbed and balanced by the carbon absorbed by new plant growth. These plants are then harvested to make the next batch of fuel. Carbon neutral fuels lead to no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which means that global warming need not get any worse.
Fossil Fuels and National Mission on Bio-Diesel
Fossil fuels are coal, gas and oil. They have dramatically reduced the amount of biomass fuel used in the developed world for transport, heat and power. The Government has identified jatropha curcas and pongamia pinnata for plantation under the National Mission on Bio-diesel on degraded forest land without felling of trees. Pongamia pinnata is a forestry specie and its plantation is based on soil and climatic conditions of the respective forest area. It is the most suitable Tree Borne Oilseed (TBO) for production of Bio-diesel in view of its ability to thrive under a variety of agro-climatic conditions. This has been done through a consultation process which involved farmers, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Automobile manufacturers, State Governments and Central Government Departments . The purpose of the Mission is to lay a foundation for a clean and green India, energy security, employment generation and sustainable development.
Proposed Plantation under this Mission
The Planning Commission had set up a Committee on Development of Bio-fuel under the Chairmanship of Dr. D.N. Tewari, the then Member, Planning Commission. The Committee submitted its Report in April 2003. The main recommendations in the Report include launching of a National Mission on Bio-Diesel with special focus on plantation of Jatropha curcas. The proposed National Mission will be implemented in two phases i.e Phase I as Demonstration Project and Phase II as a self sustaing expansion of biodiesel Progrramme.
The Demonstration Phase will be taken up in a “Mission Mode” and will be a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to be implemented by State governments. After detailed discussions with the States and considering the preference shown by the southern States for pongamia plantation also, the scheme, as now proposed, envisages promotion of jatropha (Ratanjot) and pongamia (Karanj) plantations on 5 lakh hectares in forest and non-forest areas over a period of 5 years at a total cost of Rs 1500 crores. The plantations would be taken up essentially on degraded forestlands and wastelands belonging to the village communities/panchayats/governments as well as on unutilized marginal and small farmers as means of providing them supplementary livelihood opportunities. Since there is no reliable and tested database on various aspects of Jatropha cultivation and its costs and returns involved, R & D (applicable to planting and processing, training, awareness building etc) would also be an important and significant component of the Demonstrations Phase.
The proposal of Demonstration Phase of this mission was processed through the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) in October 2006 and was considered by the CCEA in March 2007. The proposal was referred to the Group of Ministers (GOM) for further examination and recommendation. The Ministry of Environment & Forests has permitted the plantation of such oil bearing trees under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 which are indigenous or naturalised to the respective forest area.
The Planning Commission made a presentation to the Prime Minister on the report of the Committee on Development of Bio-fuel on 11.7.2003 and the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) was involved to act as a Nodal Ministry for launching the National Mission on Bio-Diesel.
On the basis of the recommendations of the Planning Commission’s Committee, the Department of Land Resources (DoLR), Ministry of Rural Development submitted the Detailed Project Report (DPR) to the Planning Commission and their “in-principle approval” for the Demonstration Phase of the Mission. The Planning Commission also accorded approval for a kick-start programme to raise jatropha nurseries during January-March 2006 by utilizing the budgetary provision of Rs.50 crore made for the financial year 2005-06. Rs. 49 crore from this budget allocation was released to 9 identified States for raising jatropha nurseries and to take up plantation activity during 2006-07.
One of the primary objectives of the National Mission is to make it an effective means of bringing unutilized wastelands into productive use and make it a major pro-poor initiative for generating rural employment and income. Besides, the Mission would lend itself as an effective instrument for meeting the national energy/ecological needs. The ultimate out-put of the Mission would be to reduce the country’s dependence on imported petroleum diesel by supplementation of bio-diesel to the extent of 20%, by the end of Phase-II of the programme.
Bio-Diesel Potential of Jatropha curcas
Jatropha is a plant of Latin American origin, which is now widespread throughout arid and semi-arid tropical regions of the world. The plant is well known among the Africans, Asians and Latin American countries as having many uses, particularly in providing renewable energy, controlling erosion, improving soil and reducing poverty. It is a drought resistant perennial plant living up to 75 years. Being drought resistant, jatropha can be used to reclaim eroded lands and grown as a boundary fence or live hedge. Jatropha seeds contain about 35% non-edible oil. Jatropha oil can be used directly in diesel engines, added to diesel fuel as an extender or Trans-esterifies to a bio-diesel fuel. There are technical problems in using this oil directly in diesel engines that have yet to be completely overcome.