Agrofuels in India
A statement issued by the National Consultation on Biofuels in India: will they deliver or destroy?
Village Pastapur, Medak District, Andhra Pradesh, India
4th December 2007
We, farmers, people’s movements, NGOs and concerned individuals came together from different parts of India – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Orissa, Rajasthan, to share concerns and experiences on “bio”fuels at an all-India event in village Pastapur of Medak District in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to truly debate the question whether this so called energy-cropping will deliver or destroy.
Indigenous peoples, pastoralists, small farmers and tribal communities all across India have a holistic view of life that reflects in their interaction with the living world. This living world provides for all their needs of food, cure, fuel, fodder, energy, etc. A diversity-based existence intrinsic to their cultures taps bio-mass energy in truly ecological ways. It has no space for either monocultures or monopolies. We believe that the promotion of large-scale corporate-sponsored “bio”fuels (agrofuels) in the garb of improving energy security is yet another form of not only physically destroying the above, but also a psychological assault perpetrating the idea that farming as our peoples have done it is no longer good or tenable.
The widespread propagation of plants like Jatropha to be grown as “oil from soil” is more destruction than deliverance. It takes over lands which are core to the food sovereignty of several families, falsely considering them “waste”, and converts them to monoculture plantations which are susceptible to all the problems of industrial agriculture. Rural and forest communities with whom most of us are working, say that there is no such thing as wastelands. Most of these lands are grazing lands, common pastures, degraded forests and also lands of small and marginal communities. They not only support a multitude of livelihoods but also have a critical ecological role. This is where the government and corporates are pushing for “their” fuels displacing thousands of peoples. In places such as in Orissa, this conspiracy to alienate people from their lands takes the shape of contract & “compact” farming. In places like Chhattisgarh the plantation cultivation of the allelopathic Jatropha in and around already fragile ecosystems of protected areas makes matters worse. Experiences from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh vividly brought to us the fact of how Jatropha curcas – known as the hell oil plant, can be a curse to both flora and fauna and people. The plant itself can be a pest bank, spurring the use of pesticides. In spite of this knowledge, under the intense pressure of the corporate lobby the neo liberal planners of the country are surging ahead with massive jatropha plantations in several parts of the country, paving the path of permanent destruction of India’s environment and communities.
While such destruction of people’s fields, forests and commons goes on the one hand on the other hand some realities about the “bio”fuels are deliberately hidden from the world.
- The processing for such extraction of oil or gas is not energy efficient and therefore not any more climate-friendly. It cannot be considered as either a mitigation or adaptation solution to climate change crises without addressing the real reasons why such change is actually taking place.
- Jatropha, sugarcane & other plantations are highly water-demanding and in places such as Rajasthan, which are already water stressed, jatropha can only remain a “hell crop”.
- “Bio”/agro fuels are also a way of bringing genetically engineered crops from the back door. Therefore the GM lobby is a natural ally of these fuel crops
- Agrofuels & their second generation will also bring with them the spectre of oppressive patents further strengthening the IPR regime which is an insult and assault on the knowledge traditions of local communities
- It is clear that the paradigm of “bio”fuels is not people-friendly. Is it eco-justice that some countries and the elite groups within our own country 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 “bio”fuels?
By listening to all these evidences we are convinced that agrofuels are no way of tackling climate change but a way of further supporting the current consumptive paradigm that is the source of climate change crisis. What also needs to be reversed is the advertising and propaganda that encourages peoples to consume more and more! Also the large farm-to-food model that promotes chemical agriculture, mechanised operations adding unnecessary “food miles” and wasteful packaging, not only adds 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. Without changing all this, any one renewable energy law or policy will not address the concerns.
What needs to be genuinely reversed is the mindless “development” that is being hankered after.
We reject any pseudo -“solutions” that are thrown upon us from outside that too touted as clean and green, which they are not. We neither asked for “agro”fuels as they are being propagated with such speed and at such scale, nor do we believe that they offer solutions for our real problems.
For that reason some of us even feel that the term agrofuels might even corrupt the sanctity of the word agriculture and so some suggested that it alternatively be called corp.-fuels, which both indicate that they are corporate-run and are death-giving turning our agriculture into a corpse! The agriculture as our small farmers know and live by is life-giving and life-sustaining.
Agrofuels only add another layer of problems on to our peoples already facing, such as large developmental projects, resource privatisation, mining MNCs and SEZs (special economic zones). Agrofuels only fuel more national crises and serves no national purpose as is said for energy security.
In solidarity with other people’s movements and concerned voices across other parts of Asia & the world against “bio”fuels, our demands include:
- stop misuse of all government funds, schemes, programmes, etc. like under NREGA for promoting “bio”fuels; the targeting of Panchayats at the local level and pressurising of village level institutions must stop
- halt targets for conversion to fuel blending schemes until steps are taken to reduce demand, increase fuel efficiency & genuine research on other viable options for transportation is done
- no conversion of land use causing the displacement of our peoples
- food and fibre crops should neither be for large-scale fuel purposes nor be displaced from people’s agriculture
- support only very small scale self-endeavours of farm and community level bio-based fuels for use within communities facilitating their energy sovereignty and not for export outside the communities
- all governments at every level must show will and commitment to 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 that truly keep the “bio” character of life and living
signed by participants of
BIOFUELS IN INDIA: WILL THEY DELIVER OR DESTROY?
Organised by Deccan Development Society in collaboration with GRAIN
3-4 December 2007