photo: CDC/Chris Zahniser via pingnews
The Indian National Mission on Biodiesel may have been quietly shelved recently, but that doesn’t mean that state governments aren’t continuing forward with their plans to cultivate Jatropha for biodiesel.
40% of Uttar Pradesh Wastelands Alloted for Jatropha
The Business Standard reports that the government of Uttar Pradesh is planning to cultivate Jatropha on 40% of the total amount of wasteland in the state over the next five years. This means that nearly 1.6 million hectares (4 million acres) of land will be set aside for cultivation. Unlike previous government efforts, the land to be cultivated will not be taken over by the state but will instead be given to local farmers. Village panchayats (essentially, local assemblies), aided by biodiesel refiners, provide farmers with technical assistance with Jatropha cultivation.
For those not up on Jatropha, it is a small tree or shrub, the leaves and seeds of which are toxic on ingestion to both animals and people, which produces seeds with a high oil content and a high yield per hectare. It is drought tolerant, but not cold tolerant, though to get consistently high crop yields irrigation may be necessary. As it is not suitable for food use, it is claimed that it will not compete with food crops.
Environmental and social advocacy organization Navdanya has stated concerns that expanding Jatropha cultivation on wastelands will simply be a land grab by corporations, and that so-called wastelands actually provide valuable ecosystem services, and I tend to take such concerns seriously. However, in the specific arrangement here, having village authorities involved in the land allotment process could alleviate such concerns. We’ll have to see how it plays out.