News Wrap


Alternative energy, like wind, biomass and solar, accounted for less than 8% of India’s power generation in 2009. India imports about 70% of its oil and natural gas, and relies on coal for more than half of its electricity generation. Agricultural waste in India is abundant, since about 60% of its population, relies on agriculture for a living. India produces 600 million tons of ‘‘agro-waste’’ each yar, 150 million to 200 million tons of which are not used. Punjab Biomass Power, a plant near the village of Ghanaur, in Punjab state, collects the straw gathered by farmers tilling the lush fields of the surrounding countryside. After harvest, to clear fields for wheat crops, farmers would normally burn the agricultural waste, inedible to people and animals, and add to the country’s dire air pollution. At Punjab Biomass Power Plant, 120,000 tons of rice straw a year are instead burned to generate 12 megawatts of electricity for Punjab’s Power Grid.

The biomass plant produces emissions, although its filters reduce the amount that outdoor burning would generate. Such biomass energy in theory is considered carbon-neutral. Because these power plants use cane pulp and nut shells as fuel, which took carbon-di-oxide out of the atmosphere as it grew. Carbon credits, that translate into cash are granted to biomass power plants. Eventually Punjab Biomass hopes to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the plant. European countries, like Finland, Sweden and Austria, have harnessed biomass energy. Punjab Biomass began operations in November 2010, after converting the existing coal power plant at the site, an option less expensive than building a new plant or solar or wind farm. In India, biomass has the potential to generate at least 18,000 megawatts of electricity. There are 800 to 900 biomass power plants and 3000 small thermal gasifires across India. Biomass energy also generates extra income for farmers, from sales of rice straw, and other agro-waste unfit for livestock, like corn and cotton stalks, and sugar cane waste, that would otherwise be burned.

Extending Farm Credit
The credit flow to agriculture remains high in South India. Due to lack of awareness on existing schemes, it was the least in the north-east states. Poor awareness about existing crop loans deprived small and marginal farmers, including tenant farmers and share croppers, from obtaining agricultural credit, not only in the North-eastern region, but also eastern and western parts of the country. Increased awareness about farm credit because of the initiative taken by the government and banks, has led to credit flow to farmers from banks in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala being higher than other states. Farm credit disbursement stood at Rs 1,94 lac crore (2010-2011), for South India, Rs 1.15 lac crore (2010-2011) for North India, and Rs 4630 crore (2010-2011) for the north-east. The credit flow to tenant farmers has been negligible, even though banks are allowed to provide credit upto Rs 1 lakh by taking a declaration from the Gram Sabha.

Vol. 46, No. 25, Dec 29 2013 -Jan 4, 2014

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