India: Biofuels to Deliver or Destroy? Crops for Food or Crops for Cars? Print E-mail

Deccan Development Society

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A press release December 6, 2007

Read also statement, "FUEL"LING CONCERNS, issued December 4, 2007 at Village Pastapur, Medak District, Andhra Pradesh, by the National Consultation on Biofuels in India: HERE

Crops for Food or Crops for Cars? is a question being asked worldwide by people who have grave concern about the new hype and hoopla around Biofuels as the great alternative to Climate Change crisis.

Biofuels, also being increasingly termed as agrofuels in recent times has not been discussed extensively in this country. In many parts of the world, particularly in Africa and Latin America biofuels is a raging debate for its destruction of human food systems [maize prices in Mexico have skyrocketed since the use of corn as biofuel] and ecological damage it is threatening [in Africa several millions of hectares of monocropping of biofuel plantations] and human livelihoods it has begun to endanger. Precious ecosystems are being destroyed and hundreds of thousands of indigenous and peasant communities are being thrown off their land.

On the other hand in India biofuel plantations are being advocated by its protagonists as THE ANSWER to the energy security of the country. The new jatropha plantations being planned on nearly 15 million hectares in many parts of the country are also raising a number of concerns.

These concerns were expressed strongly in a National Consultation titled Biofuels in India: Will they deliver or destroy? 25 participants from 12 Indian states representing farmers, adivasis, pastoralists, scientists, civil society groups participated in this two day consultation held on December 3 and 4 at Pastapur in Medak District of Andhra Pradesh.

The Consultation emphasized that Biofuel production was not climate friendly since the energy needed for the production and processing of biofuels far exceeds the energy output. Plantations such as Jatropha need irrigation to be economically viable and such plantations in an already water stressed area such as Rajasthan can only create more climate crisis than resolving it. 

The Consultation recognized the fact that agrofuels might be a way of bringing genetically engineered crops and trees from the back door resulting in large scale contamination of the regular crops and thereby strengthening the biotech industry’s demand for approval of more and more GM food crops.

“The current aggressive promotion of chemical agriculture that uses a huge amount of fossil fuels, mechanised operations and unnecessary “food miles” to transport food from one part of the globe to another part and wasteful packaging­all these not only add to the problem of climate change but erodes our biodiverse traditions. The food retail “revolution” that we are poised on would only aggravate the situation” pointed out the Consultation.

 “Is it eco-justice that the some countries refuse to give up their consumptive lifestyles and instead create demands for fuels, which then is thrust on people’s in countries like ours in the shape of agrofuels”, the Consultation asked.

Experiences from states such as Rajasthan vividly described how Jatropha known as “Hell Oil” has become a curse to all flore and fauna. Its property called Allelopathy prevents other plants and life coming up around it. Jatropha is also a PEST BANK, attracting and hosting a number of pests which then spread around. It was also said that Jatropha being a carcinogenic plant is a purveyor of Green Cancer. This being the case, what is the justification for a massive 15 million acre plantation of Jatropha in this country?

With these issues as the context, the National Consultation demanded that:

-         Halt targets for conversion to fuel blending schemes until genuine research on fuel efficiency is done and other viable options for transportation are explored

-         Don’t allow conversion of land use causing the displacement of our peoples

-         Food and fibre crops should not either be used for fuel purposes nor be displaced from agriculture.

-         Recognise that Jatropha is a curse on flora and fauna having adverse on all life forms around it due to its Allelopathic character. Jatropha also acts as a Pest Bank hosting a multitude of pests. Being carcinogenic, it is also a source of Green Cancer.

-         stop misuse of all government funds, schemes, programmes such as NREG for promoting biofuels

-         Stop targeting Panchayats and other local institutions and pressurize them to start Biofuel plantations.

-         all governments must show will and commitment towards taking definitive actions to halt the root causes of climate change

-         support and recognise real people’s efforts at energy conservation on the ground

-         Support community level small enterprises for biofuel production for strict use within the community.

Would trying to tackle the symptoms of climate change without going to its root causes, really address the problem? The waste of the globalised food system as organised by the transnational corporations is at the root of climate change problem. Far from contributing to the solution, biofuels will only make a bad situation worse.

Therefore the question really is Will Biofuels deliver or destroy?
p v satheesh
Director, Deccan Development Society

Participants: National Consultation on Biofuels: will they deliver or destroy

Pastapur Village, Medak District, Andhra Pradesh, India
Mr Ravi Rebbapragada, SAMATA, Andhra Pradesh
Mr Devludu, SANJEEVINI, Andhra Pradesh
Dr Sagari R Ramdas,ANTHRA, Andhra Pradesh
Dr Mohammed Osman, Principal Scientist (Agronomy), Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Andhra Pradesh
Mr P V Satheesh, Deccan Development Society, Andhra Pradesh
Women Farmers of Deccan Development Society, Andhra Pradesh
Mr Pankaj Oudhia, Agricutlure Scientist, Chattisgarh
Mr Birsing Sinku, JOHAR Jharkhand
Mr Simon Hansdak, Jhorkhond Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC), Jharkhand
Mr Pandurang Hegde, APPIKO / PRAKRUTI, Karnataka
Mr Mastan Biradar, Right to Food Campaign, Karnataka
Mr Krishna Srinivasan, ECONET, Maharashtra
Mr Vijay Jawandhia, Shetkari Sangathana, Maharashtra
Dr Utkarsh Ghate, Gangotri TrustGangotree Ecotechnology PVt Ltd, Maharashtra
Mr. Rahul Yadav, Shoshit Sewa Sansthan, Madhya Pradesh
Ms. Imrongkumla, Nagaland Emplowerment of People through Economic Development(NEPED) Nagaland
Mr Ashok B Sharma, Correspondent,  Financial Express,  New Delhi
Mr Anil Chaudhary, INSAF, New Delhi
Ms Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
Ms Shalini Bhutani, GRAIN, New Delhi
Mr Prafulla Samantara, Lokshakti Abhiyan, Orissa
Mr. Tushar  Dash, Vasundhara, Orissa
Mr Aman Singh, Krishi Avam Paristhitiki, Vikas Sansthan (KRAPAVIS), Rajasthan
Mr Aditya Pandey, Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON), Rajasthan
Dr Viren Lobo, Programme Director, SPWD, Rajasthan
Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary , Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, New Delhi
Ms Kumari Ghimire, Namsaling Community Development Centre (NCDC), Nepal
Mr Sujan Parajuli, Nepal Institute for Development Studies (NIDS), Nepal
Mr Daniel Buckles, IDRC, Canada