Chambal to go green

Move over dacoits and bandits. The rugged Chambal Valley in Madhya Pradesh is being seen as a future energy hub. If the Madhya Pradesh government’s plan to lease out wasteland to corporate India for cultivation of jatropha gets a positive response, Chambal is all set to turn into an alternative energy hotspot. With the Madhya Pradesh government getting its act together to weed out criminals in the area and killing over 50 dacoits, including dreaded gangster Jagjivan Parihar in the last one year, many private companies have now shown an interest in the cultivation of jatropha, a bio-diesel plant, in the Chambal Valley. On the dacoit menace in the area, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan stressed that Chambal would no longer be known for bandits and criminal activities. “Most of the infamous dacoits of the area have been eliminated. It’s time to convert Chambal into a future energy hub. I am glad that several private companies have shown interest in developing the area and cultivating jatropha under our wasteland development policy,” he said.RPS Rathore, director, Annapurna ITM bio-energy has proposed an investment of Rs 450 crore in jatropha cultivation and production of bio-diesel in the Chambal area. The company has recently signed an MoU with the state government for this purpose. “We would like to convert Chambal into a hub of renewable energy. The state government will first lease out 2,000 hectares of land, but we will need 25,000 hectares later. Our idea is to create facilities in Chambal for the production of solar and wind energy, and cultivation of jatropha plants for bio-fuels,” Mr Rathore said. With the global energy crisis looming large, private companies in India have spotted future potential in cultivating jatropha and producing alternative energy. The oil from jatropha curcas seeds is widely used for making bio-diesel fuel in many countries, including India, Philippines, Mali etc. Seed yields under cultivation may range from 1,500 to 2,000 kg per hectare, which may translate into oil yields of 540 to 680 litres per hectare. In fact, the companies which have also shown interest in jatropha cultivation in the wastelands of Madhya Pradesh, including Chambal, are K S Oils, Ruchi group and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to name a few. Though several states in India may also invite private companies for cultivation of jatropha, Madhya Pradesh has made a headstart. Madhya Pradesh State Agro Industries Development Corporation has been given a mandate to short-list companies willing to invest in bio-fuel plants in the state.Vini Badjatiya, MD, Hindustan Infratech, said that his company was more than willing to cultivate jatropha in the Chambal area. “We have applied for 5,000 hectares of wasteland leased from the state government. We may initially be given 2,000 hectares. Villagers in Chambal area have been willing to cooperate with us as we will bring in employment and development to the area,” he said. Significantly, Chambal division, which is an administrative unit of MP comprising three districts of Morena, Bhind and Sheopur, has always been the hideout of dacoits. Phoolan Devi, the most prominent bandit who was a terror in the region and in parts of Uttar Pradesh too, later turned politician and won the Lok Sabha elections on a Samajwadi Party ticket. Mohur Singh was another dacoit who surrendered and later joined local politics. Two years ago, police killed dreaded dacoit Nirbhay Gujjar, who had committed 239 serious offences including murder, kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery. “However, people no longer fear Chambal Valley. There is no dacoit there. Once companies begin jatropha cultivation, villagers too will cooperate as they will get employment,” Mr Chauhan summed up.

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