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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dry Leaves as Traditional Fuel - Any new suggestion?

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Dry leaves of plants and trees are considered as a free source of energy falling from the sky. These are a perpetual source of renewable energy. These may also be the ideal earth-friendly biofuel feedstock for the production of ethanol and / or a secondary source of fuel for power plants.

Every season when wild flowers start blooming, the skyline turns beautiful with different hues of colours when deciduous trees go on their annual metamorphosis or the leaf fall. This picturesque demonstration goes on for some time after which leaves dry up and fall to the floor.

I remember, in my childhood when Mahua trees used to shed their leaves yellowish fragrant flowers used to cone out and fall through out nights, and girls with wooden baskets in their hands used to go under those trees to collect them. The floor under those trees used to become covered with dry leaves and those dry leaves used to be collected by girls and ladies of poor families to store those leaves for their year round cooking fuel. Now that LPG is available even in remote villages of India, poor families still depend on this fuel as they can not afford tree twigs to as they don’t have land or trees in their possession. In tribal forest villages ladies used to collect forest produce including Ber, Forest fruits, goolar, amla and other things including leaves from the forest floor to make advanced arrangements for the rainy days. In my early childhood I have seen ladies collecting leaves from the floor of Arhar crop (Cajunus Cajun) for fuel. Ladies in Jharkhand state of India too can b seen collecting leaves from the forest floor, filling big sacks, and carrying those sacks on their heads to their homes. Never, could I see a male doing such work. Now, again the term Ecofeminism once used by the noted environmentalist of India Madhav Gadgil nocks the mind. Ladies all over the world can be seen carrying the whole load on the earth on their heads while they suffer from oppression, family violence, poor reproductive health and all types of negligence.

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 It has been reported that in America, up to 30 million tonnes of leaves end up in land fills every year. Leaves have been reported to account for 75% of the solid waste in the fall. We have studied in our school day that leaves use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to synthesize their food and oxygen is released out into the atmosphere. Thus now we can conclude that each leaf of a plant acts like a solar cell which stores and uses solar energy. Leaves from trees and plants fall on the floor as tiny batteries containing significant quantum of energy. This energy of solar batteries can be harnessed to help address the fuel demands of the world.
Scientists the world over are of the opinion that the current repertoire of biofuel sources is not as ecofriendly as it is looked upon. David Tillman and Jason Hill (23007) are of the opinion that –

“Biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn, have the potential to provide us with cleaner energy. But because of how corn ethanol is currently prepared, only about 20 pr cent of each gallon is new energy. That is because it takes a lot of old fossil energy to make it: diesel to run tractors, natural gas to make fertilizer, and, of course, fuel to run the refineries that convert corn to ethanol.”

Here the story is rather different. Emission of carbon dioxide the world over is continued in spite of global climatic changes. World nations are at political trends to make straight their own lines. In many Indian states, as the country is developing yet, wood is being burnt on large scales in Dhabas (motels), and in poor houses. In spite of the Government of India’s efforts of popularizing smokeless wood stoves, wood is burnt in ordinary chullhas. Those who can not afford wood are burning dried leaves to cook their food. These leaves are collected by them from the forest floors. On the other side the forest department doesn’t like this encroachment. A section of tribal people is on its ways on movement to get rights on Jal, Jangal, and Jamin. What ever may be the result of such ovement, what can these ladies does to cook their food. Do these ladies know about the Global Warming or the Global Climate Change? A hungry being can do anything to get food. If burning biomass is a sin in view of global climate – Bubhukshito kim na karoti papam.

Key words: dried leaves, forest floor, ladies, carbon dioxide, climate change, climate change, smokeless woodstoves

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