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Defence ministry mulls bio-diesel production via Jatropha

Written by: Staff
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Lucknow, Feb 26 (UNI) The Defence Ministry is actively considering a proposal to use its vast unutilised land around the missile range at Balasore (Orissa) for the plantation of Jatropha -- the wonder plant which can produce environment friendly bio-diesel.

A presentation was given to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in this regard, on the basis of which the organisation was likley to take an early and favourable decision.

As part of the global initiative to develop environment friendly and economically viable alternative to the the existing fossil fuels, the Centre has already launched a Jatropha Development Program on national level.

An expert in this field and the newly appointed State Convenor of Jatropha Mission Cell set up by Uttar Pradesh government, P S Ojha said the presentation given by him in an individual capacity before the DRDO was much appreciated.

''The idea is to grow Jatropha seeds on commercial basis which would help self funding of huge 12,000 crore project at Balasore as component of India's missile programme,'' Mr Ojha told UNI here.

He said there is a large tract of land lying unused in the protected area around Balasore and Niligiri. The land could well be used as the major revenue earner for DRDO, he pointed out.

Similarly, Mr Ojha said another such proposal had also elicited positive response from the Indian Railways for use of 70,000 route kilometres of its land along the railway track for similar purpose.

In fact, the Railways was among the first in the country to undergo the trial run of a train using diesel blended with a natural non-edible oil on December 31, 2002. The Shatabdi Express bewteen Delhi and Amritsar used a five per cent blend of Jatropha oil with diesel. The run was satisfactory and Railways is now planning a 'full-fledged,' high profile run.

Making a breakthrough via Railways is an excellent strategy as they are India's largest consumers of diesel. If they use just a five per cent blend about Rs 150 crores would be saved from their annual fuel bill.

The Railways are planning to increase the blend upto 10 per cent.

The limit in world practice is 15 per cent.

The other reason why Railways is the best first-customer is the acres of land they own along the tracks. They intend using it for plantation towards bio-diesel production thus creating further synergies by way of savings and jobs creation. The preferred oil plant would be Jatropha as it is a shrub and therefore does not block view.

Jatropha curcas L is a shrub or small tree which is planted in tropical and subtropical countries as a living fence to protect gardens and fields from animals. It produces small seeds which contain more than 30 per cent of a non-edible oil.

The products which can be obtained through its plantation include oil, press-cake and the sediment of oil purification. The oil can be used as a fuel in pre-combustion chamber diesel engines and as a lubricant. The oil and the sediment can be used for soap production and the press cake is a good organic fertilizer. The oil is also rich in an insecticide.

The oil extraction can be done with hand or engine driven expellers. These are simple machines, which can be operated on village level and built within the country.

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