Erode district initiates project to turn forest weed into fuel, ensure income for tribal community

Under the Tamil Nadu Vazhndhu Kattuvom Project, invasive species Lantanacamara will be converted into fuel briquettes for supply to industries in Erode, thereby ensuring an income for tribal people, Erode Collector H. Krishnanunni said

January 06, 2023 12:42 pm | Updated 12:42 pm IST - ERODE

Collector H. Krishnanunni inspecting the tractor, wood chipper and brush cutter that will be used to chop the lantana and make it into fuel briquettes, at the Collectorate in Erode on Friday.

Collector H. Krishnanunni inspecting the tractor, wood chipper and brush cutter that will be used to chop the lantana and make it into fuel briquettes, at the Collectorate in Erode on Friday. | Photo Credit: GOVARTHAN M

The Erode district administration has initiated a project to convert Lantana camara, an invasive species found in abundance across the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR), into fuel, and to ensure a regular income for tribal people at Hasanur.

Under the Tamil Nadu Vazhndhu Kattuvom Project (TNVKP), over 50 tribal people were trained to make furniture from lantana at the Talavadi Adivasi Munnetra Sangam in Hasanur. Later, the Hasanur Tribal Lantana Camara Enterprise Group was formed, and the finished products are now being marketed through the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (TRIFED) as well as at Aatral Erode, an exclusive retail outlet for self-help groups in Erode.

In a move to provide jobs to more tribal people as well as a regular source of income, District Collector H. Krishnanunni initiated a project to convert the lantana into briquette that can be used as a fuel in furnaces and boilers in industries. Since fuel efficiency in lantana is high due to its high calorific value, fuel briquettes made from lantana are preferred by industries.

Under the Innovation Fund of the TNVKP, a tractor with a trailer, brush cutter and chipper were purchased at a cost of ₹16 lakh and Mr. Krishnanunni handed over the machines to the Hasanur Tribal Lantana Camara Enterprise Group at the Erode Collectorate on Friday, in the presence of G. Dhamodaran, District Executive Officer of TNVKP.

High demand for fuel briquettes

Mr. Dhamodaran told The Hindu that industries in the district purchase 5 lakh tonnes of fuel wood every month from other districts, and there is a good demand for fuel briquettes due to their high fuel efficiency. He said that permission has been obtained from the District Forest Officer of Hasanur Division to remove lantana in 100 hectares from three places in forest areas at Hasanur.

The brush cutter will cut the lantana and the chipper will pulverize and compress the weed to make briquettes that will be collected in the trailer. “Initially, 15 members will be deployed for the work and this will be scaled up to 70 members [in the future],” he said.

Mr. Krishnanunni said though the invasive weed posed a grave threat to forests, projects, including furniture making from lantana, were being implemented through TNVKP to improve the livelihood of tribal people. He said that one tonne of these briquettes is sold for ₹6,000, thereby each working person can get a daily income of ₹300. “The project ensures regular jobs and economic development of tribal people at Hasanur”, he said.

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