Govt does too little to produce bio-fuel

KATHMANDU: About a year ago, a group of Palpalis travelled to Kathmandu on a bio-diesel-fuelled car. The locals had produced the fuel out of the Jatropha seeds. Ministers and high-ranking government officers toured on the vehicle in the capital and vowed to start its commercial production soon.

This is, however, all that the government has done in the regard.

"Having received the government's commitment to set up an industry, we started private production of Jatropha oil. But the lack of a governing policy has put us in quandary," said Dr Khem Raj Bhattarai, Jatropha specialist.

The government has not formulated any policy regarding the production and marketing of bio-fuel in Nepal yet.

"We started work on it. But due to the lack of inter-ministerial coordination, the work has not gained momentum," said Annapurna Nanda Das, spokesperson, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation. Jatropha, palm, soyabean, groundnut, coconut and mustard can be used to produce bio-diesel. Jatropha is found in the wilderness all over the country and is non-edible, making it the best material to produce biodiesel.

Jatropha curcas, a species found in Nepal, is a perennial, monoecious shrub. Its seeds are of no use for ordinary people and could be raw material for the highly demanded fuel.

Talks about bio-fuel die down when there is enough supply of petroleum products in the country. "We are known for paying lip service," remarked Bhattarai.

Bhattarai said addition of Jatropha oil to petroleum products does not create any problem in motor engines. "There is no doubt about that. It has been scientifically proved. Rudolf Diesel, inventor of diesel engine, used bio-fuel to run his engine for the first time," said Bhattarai. Low production cost makes Jatropha an option to fossil fuel. Three of the 200 Jatropha species are found in Nepal.