Only degraded land for bio-fuel crop: minister

March 12th, 2008 - 8:13 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) Jatropha, a bio-fuel crop hailed by some as the answer to India’s oil shortage and reviled by others as the bane of its food crops and forests, will be grown only on degraded forest land, parliament was informed Wednesday. Two MPs had asked if the government had assessed the impact on the environment of large-scale cultivation of bio-fuel crops that are seen by many to be the solution to high oil prices and also to emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) that is leading to climate change.

But critics say the overall GHG emissions from bio-fuel use would remain the same, while large-scale cultivation of fuel crops would displace trees on one hand and food crops on the other.

The MPs had wanted to know the steps taken by the government to check the adverse impact of the cultivation of bio-fuel crops.

In reply, Minister of State for Environment and Forests S. Regupathy informed the Lok Sabha Wednesday that the government had not made any impact assessment.

“However, it has identified Jatropha curcas and Pongamia pinnata for plantation on degraded land as the most suitable tree-borne oilseed for production of bio-diesel in view of its (sic) ability to thrive under a variety of agro-climatic conditions.”

The government has set up a national mission on bio-diesel. The minister told parliament that the crops had been identified in consultation with NGOs, car manufacturers, state governments and central government departments.

“The government of India has issued direction to the state/UT governments for plantation of Jatropha curcas on degraded forest land without felling trees,” Regupathy added.

“Pongamia pinnata is a forestry species and its plantation is based on soil and climatic conditions of the respective forest area.”

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