Sunday, 6 July 2008
We dont want a bio fuel mafia in India, do we?
With petrol prices going up, the new fad is bio fuel. The arguments put forward are it is cheap and that is zero polluting. Bio Fuel or Crude is a Hobson’s choice and as the old saying goes “Trust a known devil rather than an unknown fairy”.
If Bio-fuel is produced from food meant for you and me, as the demand for it goes up, the prices of these commodities will go up and also there will be a severe scarcity. One of the reasons attributed for the global increase of food prices is bio-fuel. If Bio-fuel has to be produced exclusively, then the existing thin cover of forests will be further endangered. The threat that bio-fuel posses to our forest cover is unimaginable. It will lead to large scale deforestation, soil erosion, vanishing of more species, etc. Recently there have been large scale protests in Kenya against letting out 80 square miles of Tana River Delta for bio-fuel production. This delta is to be converted as a sugarcane plantation unmindful of the fact that now it is home to lions, hippos, reptiles and sustains thousands of farmers and fishermen.
One dreads the day when bio-fuel cultivation catches the fancy of the corrupt and powerful in India. Just look at a city like Bangalore, where over the past 20 years, scores of lakes have been encroached and converted into layouts. The Government for obvious reasons is keeping quite. The same would happen with bio-fuel production once its profitability is unleashed. With ruthless ease, food crop cultivating areas would be converted into non-food crop producing area; forests would be done away with to put up sugar plantations, like it is happening in Kenya and elsewhere. Bio-fuel is non-polluting but already we are facing the problem of global warming due to disappearance of forest cover. What is the point in having a non-polluting fuel when there would be fewer forest cover than the existing depleted one?
The only alternative that can work for India is the ever present solar energy. Most parts of the country have sunshine throughout the year. I would love to buy a solar cooker but it takes 2 hours to cook rice and who has that much time. The Government has to invest huge sums of money into making use of solar energy viable. Use of solar energy in certain cases should be made compulsory. For example, the Government could come out with a law wherein houses with more than 600 sqft diameter are compelled to install solar geysers. The Government should from a future date; say 2013 make it compulsory that all 2 wheelers below 100 cc should be capable of running on solar power. Solar water heaters should be made compulsory for hotels and restaurants. The street lights should be capable of running on both solar and electric power.
Bio-fuel is not for a country like India where environmental laws are broken with impunity. We are having a mining mafia which is causing sufficient environmental damage, now we don’t want a bio-fuel mafia.
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