SRI LANKA: Rubber adaptable to climate change

Rubber is among the best tree crops to be used in mitigation option of climate change, a study conducted by Rubber Research Institute (RRI) in Agalawatte (Sri Lanka) has revealed.

This is due to the rubber tree's adaptability to the expected climate variabilities and capabilities of fixing a considerable amount of carbon dioxide during its 30 year economic lifespan.

Rubber is successfully grown in wet areas having about 5,000 mm annual rainfall, and also in dry areas with less than 2000 mm annual rainfall. Now it is grown from sea level to the altitudes of 750 m.

"Rubber has an entitlement to be a forest plantation and opportunities arise in developing rubber based carbon absorption projects to combat the green house effect and to provide a degree of protection in buffering rapid changes in climate,” said RRI Biochemistry and Physiology Department Head V. H. L. Rodrigo.

The rubber tree is capable of fixing about 1 metric ton carbon dioxide during its economic life cycle and therefore within a hectare of rubber having over 300 trees, a minimum of 300 MT of carbon dioxide is expected to be absorbed. As a replacement to the fossil fuel based synthetic rubber products, natural rubber based products could be marketed with the label of clean products, he said.

The study suggests that rubber will also provide a stable and greater income to farmers who face uncertainties with seasonal crops. Rubber plantation is expected to increase the annual family income of about Rs 55,000 in the Eastern Province to about Rs 450,000 by introducing one hectare of rubber per farmer family. Further employment opportunities arise with associated industries and trading.

The researchers also pointed out that energy based Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects could be built up using rubber firewood as a renewable energy replacing the fossil fuel burning. In this case, initiative should be taken at the country level with government-private sector partnerships.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)