22 children ill after eating jatropha seeds; The Guardian letter
- 1. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/22_children_hospitalised_after_consuming_jatropha_seeds_/rssarticleshow/3922068.cms
22 children hospitalised after consuming jatropha seeds
1 Jan 2009, 1454 hrs IST, IANS
RAIPUR: At least 22 children, all less than eight years old, were admitted to hospital in serious condition in Chhattisgarh after consuming seeds of
the poisonous jatropha plant which is being grown on a large scale to extract bio-fuel, police said Thursday.
"As many as 22 children of Durg town were rushed to the district government hospital in a serious condition after they mistakenly consumed jatropha seeds grown in a local field late Wednesday," Dipanshu Kabra, district superintendent of police, said.
Durg town, located some 40 km from state capital Raipur, is in Durg district.The officer said: "The kids are showing signs of improvement and doctors have said they are out of danger, but they have all been kept under observation."
Jatropha is a plant that grows up to three metres and produces inedible fruits. Several states, including Chhattisgarh, have been planting its saplings in millions in a bid to extract bio-fuel from it.
Some agricultural scientists say large-scale jatropha plantations are becoming a curse for children as just two of its seeds are enough to act as a strong purgative while four to five seeds can cause death.
Bumpy take-off for aviation biofuelIn your article on the biofuel test flight (Jatropha-fuelled plane, 30 December), you rightly covered environmentalists' caution over biofuel. However, you also seem remarkably trusting of Air New Zealand's claims. You say: "The search for an environmentally friendly fuel for airplanes took a leap forward today with the world's first flight powered by a second-generation biofuel, derived from plants that do not compete with food crops ... harvested from trees grown on marginal land in India, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania."
There is nothing "second-generation" about jatropha, except that it is inedible; the oil is lipids, as with other biodiesel feedstocks. Air NZ says it requires that "the quality of the soil and climate is such that the land is not suitable for the vast majority of food crops". This could still mean that it has displaced livestock or some hardier crops. Jatropha projects are acquiring a track record of displacing existing farmsteads in Africa and south Asia, with improper treatment of local farming communities.
This means that we do not know if substitution of kerosene fuel with jatropha is helping find an environmentally friendly fuel at all, in view of the competition it may be setting up with other land uses; or whether it is merely a distraction from other more worthwhile directions to take.
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