Even as GoM deliberates, some states kick off bio-fuel schemes

Some state governments, without waiting for a decision by the group of ministers (GoM) on bio-fuels, headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, have gone ahead with their own programme of large-scale plantation of Jatropha. "We have launched our Jatropha plantation programme taking a cue from the Planning Commission's document, National Mission on Biodiesel. We are aware that the GoM on bio-fuels is deliberating the issue. The broad policy of the central government has already been enunciated in the Planning Commission document. The GoM is discussing incentives to be provided and the work of central government agencies in aiding implementation of the programme,' SK Shukla, executive director of Chhattisgarh Bio-fuel Development Authority (CBDA), told FE. The CBDA, which is headed by the chief secretary of the state, has identified 15.7 million hectare out of 201.5 million hectare revenue fallow land in different parts of the state for Jatropha. Chhattisgarh has 170.18 million hectare of degraded forest land in 17 out of 18 districts which can used for Jatropha plantation. "But for this, we need clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests,' Shukla said. The Indian Railways also owns 7,309.557 hectare land along the tracks and other holdings amounting to 1,096.871 hectare, which can be used for Jatropha, he added. State government agencies have raised about 390 million Jatropha saplings in nurseries and have distributed them free to farmers for planting in 1,55,000 hectare in the last three years. In 2008-09, 200 million Jatropha saplings would be raised in nurseries. Chhattisgarh has also announced support prices for Jatropha seed at Rs 6,500 a tonne, Karanj seeds at Rs 6,000 a tonne and for Jatropha and Karanj oils at Rs 18 per litre. Also, it has framed a new policy for leasing out wastelands to investors. In addition, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is being used for Jatropha plantation. The Bio-fuel Authority of Rajasthan, too, has identified 2,106.8 hectares in 11 districts for Jatropha, said PC Chaplot, of the directorate of extension education in Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology. The state is also exploring the possibility of diverting 2% to 3% farm land for Jatropha in the form of hedges around fields for protecting crops, water harvesting as well as acting as a windbreak. In the south, Karnataka has set up an autonomous Bio-fuel Board with members drawn from institutions, agriculture universities, forest and agriculture departments, industry and NGOs for integrated development of the bio-fuel programme and formulating support prices for seeds, oil and oilcakes, KV Sarvesh, of the state agriculture department told FE.