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Dec 13, 2002
Bio-diesel plantations may actually happen

Infinite sources of diesel replacements for finite, imported petroleum are so easy to develop, that an India enthusiast is prone to whimper:"But why can’t they *do something?*”. Non edible oil from seeds of Karanji [Honge in Kannada] ,Jatropha and many others have been fully evaluated as being suitable.

There is now some hope that political will for this promising task may be forming. On Jun 8,2002, the Deccan Herald carried a story that quoted the Minister for Rural development Mr. Annasaheb M K Patil as saying that the Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee is quite excited by the idea. Another lucky break is that minister Patil is a trained chemical engineer.

The Deccan Herald report seemed to indicate that Mr Patil was aware of the pioneering work of Dr. Udipi Srinivasa of the Indian Institure of Science, which GoodNewsIndia had featured in Sep 2001. The GNI article had said: “ “...30 million hectare equivalent [planted for biodiesels] can completely replace the current use of fossil fuels, both liquid and solid, renewably, at costs India can afford,” says Dr. Shrinivasa. Our oil bill is $6 billion a year; we can put a third of that cash in the hands of rural Indians, have our oil needs met and save the two thirds. Do we have the land? Sure! Currently about 100 million hectares are lying waste in India. Cost? About Rs.1000 crores per year for 20 years and we should become self-sufficient forever in oil.”

Now in Dec 2002, there are indications of further movement. Reporting for the New Indian Express [Dec 11], Sonu Jain says that Indian Oil Co’s [IOC] R&D department has blended Karanji oil with diesel and declared itself satisfied. Minister Patil has christened the blend, B-Urja and now believes it will come to be preferred ahead of CNG and ethanol blends. Many other moves are afoot. IOC made a presentation to Mr Nitish Kumar, the Minister for Railways which is the largest consumer of diesel oil. Railways wants to plant Jatropha in 500 hectares and sell the seeds to IOC. Mr Ram Naik, the Minister for Petroleum is a convert too. An expert committee on the subject has already submitted its recommendations to the government. According to it Jatropha is to be planted in the first phase in 5 million hectares in 20 districts across 19 states. When India gets into that mode, it invariably gathers speed. Recall the green, white and blue revolutions?

In the coming days we may more frequently hear of B-Urja, Biodiesel, Karanji, Jatropha and wasteland development. Jobs, environment, national security and sustainable development are all likely to benefit. Luckily, it’s all good --and correct-- politics too!

Dr.Udipi Srinivasa in a letter to GoodNewsIndia says:

“You would have heard now and then about SuTRA’s efforts in the past five years (since January 25th, 1998 to be precise) in promoting the use of non-edible oils as diesel substitutes.  You may be pleased to know that on 18th September, both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Petroleum announced in a conference held at New Delhi on “Ethanol and Bio-diesel” that Government of India has decided to spend Rs. 20,000 crores (equivalent of 4 Billion US dollars) in the next five years to promote these sectors.  They also said that the main thrust will be to increase the production of non-edible oils in the country.  We in SuTRA wish to thank you for your whole-hearted support to our cause in the past five years and we hope we will continue to receive this support from you to further our efforts to make India self-sufficient in fuel oils.”

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