University group looking at new bio-fuel prospect
A group of professional MBA students of the University of Colombo calling themselves ‘Eco-friends’ and guided by Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne, is seeking support to launch a bio-fuel project that would benefit the country.
The group says it needs the support and co-operation of government authorities, private companies in general and organizations to fund a project that would create awareness of Jatropha’s tremendous potential, continue scientific research, pursue effective project management and in the short-term, contribute towards development through significant progress in growing Sri Lanka’s own green energy.
Jatropha is a versatile, rugged perennial shrub, which grew wild in Africa, Indonesia, Malaya, China, Brazil and more areas, but is now cultivated worldwide. It usually grows to about five metres, but can grow up to ten metres in favourable conditions. Its medicinal properties are used for treatment of ailments such as cancer, hemorrhoids, snakebite, paralysis etc. Most importantly, the edible centre, within a hard shell, has an oil content of circa 60% that can be transformed into bio-diesel through a process known as ‘festerfication’. The by-products comprise excellent organic fertilizer and the oil also contains insecticide.
The group said the cultivation of Jatropha on a large scale would boost small and medium entrepreneurs, promote self-employment, contribute towards rural development – and as the benefits become evident, cultivation will impact local small to medium machinery production to introduce the state-of-the-art technology.
Ideal for optimising waste-land no longer suitable for food production, Jatropha, as an inter-cropping medium with vegetables and fruit, will improve the socio-economic conditions in rural areas, while transforming the national energy scenario and ecological landscape, the group said.
“Sri Lanka has the ideal climate for Jatropha which is rapidly affirming its sobriquet: ‘wonder-plant’. A promising bio-fuel substitute for diesel, it could reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence on crude oil imports, thus saving substantial sums in foreign exchange,” it said.