Jatropha plantation policy has gaping holes

The Planning Commission's approach draft for the 11th Five-Year Plan has raised concerns regarding the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the ongoing jatropha plantations for developing bio-diesel in various parts of the country. The report says being a water-intensive crop jatropha plantations could lead to a drinking water shortage, and encroach on pastoral lands and animal habitats.

The report has come as a surprise since the commission was the first to persuade the Centre, in April 2003, to take up large-scale jatropha plantations under a national mission programme on biodiesel, to achieve a country-wide 20 per cent blend in diesel by 2010. Jatropha plantations were initially planned for eight states led by Chhattisgarh. The programme is yet to be launched officially but most of these states have already taken up jatropha plantations under it.

The national biodiesel programme got off to a wrong start with three ministries