Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This year there are some differences: first, the breach in the Kosi's protection system of embankments and barrages took place in Nepal, not in India. As maintenance of the embankments was our responsibility, we could not blame Nepal for the floods. We had to look within.
Second, the area, drowned under the flood, was massive and millions were marooned in remote villages. This was partly because this time the river breached upstream of the Kosi barrage and spilled over the land, forgetting that it even had a course to run before it flowed into the Ganga. Remember, this is a river, which has changed its course by 120 km in the past 250 years-satellite images show 12 distinct channels of how the river has moved.
Third, and most important, the flood captured our attention, because of the scale of the human tragedy. It was made clear that in spite of all our big talk and even bigger institutions for disaster management, we remain unprepared, under-staffed and unequipped for a crisis, when it hits. Even as people waited to be rescued we had few boats to bring them to safe places; we had little food, water and shelter to provide for them in the relief camps; and worse, we had no authority to ensure that empty homes would not be ransacked. As a result, people refused to leave. They preferred the swirling water to relief camps. What an indictment of our efforts.
Now the waters are finally receding and before our attention also moves on, let us learn, for once, the hard message of the Kosi floods of 2008. Let us learn because this disaster may not be the first or the last but it tells us of a situation getting out of control. It tells us that we have done so much wrong in the way we have managed our environment. It tells us that we know so little about how climate change and its manifestation of changing intensities of rainfall will exacerbate floods in the future. It also tells that we cannot 'adapt' to these changes, unless we do things differently.
Let's unpack this lesson. For long, we have believed that we can 'conquer' nature, control the flood and emasculate our rivers. In Kosi and its tributaries, we worked this engineering to perfection, by building barrages to hold the river, accompanied with miles of embankments to tie the river down.
It was as far back as 1991, that environmentalist Anil Agarwal published the book, Floods, flood plains and environmental myths. He explained how the engineering solution was in fact increasing both the incidence and intensity of floods. The reason was simple. The rivers brought down huge quantities of silt each year. The Kosi, in particular, was known to bring coarse sediments, which would add to the rate of siltation. Wherever embankments were built, silt got deposited in the river. We forgot that the extraordinary fertility of this region was because of this same alluvial silt, which was spread over the land by the inundating waters. With silt in its bed, the flow was reduced and floods increased. When the embankments broke or breached, flood duration increased because the water could not drain away.
Worse, the engineering walls led people to believe that they were protected from floods. As a result, low lying areas got populated. Then when the wall broke, the flood hit hard.
In doing all this, explained Anil Agarwal, we messed up the drainage system of the region. We merrily filled up the water bodies, which were the sponges for its floodwater and forgot the 'dead' channels of the river, through which the water gushed away. We believed these were unnecessary. We forgot how the wetlands provided food in the flood season-from fish to plant biodiversity. We forgot because first, we were hungry for land. Then, we were greedy for the money we would make from these engineering marvels, which were repaired on paper and half built, for full money. Corruption became the way of life. In all this, we forgot that we had once learnt to 'live' with floods.
But when he wrote this, Anil Agarwal was pilloried and mocked; the environmental lobby even accused him of playing into the timber contractor's hand. All because he said that we should stop blaming the mountains for the floods in the plains. It was time we understood that the forests of the Himalayas were needed for the people who lived there. But the forests in this fragile and extremely young and erosion-prone region would not stop the floods in the plains.
To 'stop' the floods, we had to re-learn the science and art of water management.
The water engineers rubbished this saying they knew better. They had the answers.
All I can say, we wish they were right.
We have to now understand that we are faced with a double whammy-floods will increase also because the pattern of rainfall is going on a twist. Climate change is making rain more unseasonal, erratic and intense in many parts of the country. 'Coping' with floods will become even more difficult now.
So what we can do without is the deadly combination of arrogance and ignorance. Instead, we can do with some learning. And a lot of doing.
Sunita Narain, Writer is Director, Centre for Science and Environment
Friday, September 12, 2008
The census 2001 and the growth indicators portray Bihar as one of the poorest States in India, with a highly underdeveloped economic structure and the lowest per capita income. What makes its situation unique is that Bihar is the only State in India where poverty has been uniformly at the highest level. This is primarily because the third most populous State in the country with approximately 83 million people suffer from natural calamity. With the onset of the monsoon, rivers come down from the Himalayan hills in Nepal, the river current has enormous force, this leads to rivers like Ghagra, Kamla, Kosi, Bagmati, Gandak, Ganga, Falgu, Karamhasar, Mahanadi rising above the danger level and posing a threat to North Bihar. Young Kosi, “the sorrow of Bihar”, has not yet matured enough to settle on a course, and has changed its course 15 times. There is hardly an inch of land in Mithilanchal through which the untamed river has not passed. Hence, taming young Kosi has so far appeared impossible, mainly because of financial, legal, administrative, political, environmental and construction approach constraints. The Bhimnagar barrage, which falls in Nepal, was constructed by India in 1956. The life-span of the barrage expired in 1986 but till now no concrete step has been taken to restore the safety of the Bhimnagar barrage; as a result Kosi has breached the embankment seven times and the breaking of the barrage side near Kusaha is the eighth instance and a unique one as it has led to a national calamity.
There has been hardly a year when Bihar was not exposed to the vagaries of these natural calamities. The cultural heritage of Bihar (Mithilanchal) is facing one of the most devastating floods of recent times: 20 districts and over 40 lakh population spread over 15 thousand villages of Bihar have been affected by the Kosi changing its course. The estimated death toll might cross 1000. The affected people need humanitarian assistance, and the need of the hour is to bring international, national, technical, economic and administrative power and expertise to combat the devastation caused by floods. Loss of life from floods in other parts of world has been reduced in recent years by a combination of improved forecasting, warning and planned responses. But in Bihar, if we see the past performance of the State Government, we find that, in the name of flood control, negative politics and corruption are involved. The recent flood relief scam in Bihar exposed the involvement of civil servants, contractors and politicians. Hence, hundreds of crores spent on flood relief have been siphoned away. This shows that the mechanism of good governance, which is associated with efficient and effective administration, presence of the rule of law, safeguarding of human life and property, presence of honest and efficient government, accountability and transparency and openness, is absent. Moreover, the Bihar Government’s effort is constrained by the fact that the catchments of most rivers and their tributaries which flood the Bihar plains are located outside Bihar. As the rivers originate from outside the State, their management is beyond the competence of the Government of Bihar. Long-term flood control measures like afforestation, construction of reservoirs on tributaries, groundwater storage through large-capacity artesian wells in the Terai areas, which can be operational in the dry season and allow to recharge during monsoon so on, needs the cooperation of the Nepal Government. Moreover, India must start fresh bilateral diplomacy with Nepal since Nepal has an elected government. This will reduce the suffering of millions of the population living in Mithilanchal, which is one of the most densely populated regions of the world. Attempts must be made to engage multilateral institutions so that Nepal produces 3000 MW of electricity, of which a substantial part can be sold to India to bring improvement in the real income of the Nepalese and meet the energy deficiencies of the eastern region of India.
THE National Commission on Flood identified Bihar as one of the most flood affected States in India. After independence 25 lakh hectares of land were flood prone, but now the figure is 50 lakh hectares. Moreover, Bihar alone faces about 22.8 per cent of devastation caused by floods in India, where the food affected area is only 16.5 per cent. This implies maximum devastation occurs in a small flood affected area. In Uttar Pradesh the flood affected area is 25.1 per cent, but only 14.7 per cent area is devastated. In West Bengal the flood affected area is 11.5 per cent, but only 9.7 per cent land is devastated, whereas in Orissa 6.8 per cent land is flood-affected but only 4.8 per cent of land is destroyed.
In 1928, writing about the floods in Bihar, the Chairman of the Flood Committee, Adams Williams noted that the problem is not how to prevent floods, but how to pass them as quickly as possible to the sea. And the solution lies in removing all the obstacles which militate against this result. Moreover, flooding is ecologically necessary for sustainable development. Human activity should be made compatible with flooding, so that floods do not cause great distress and losses. In the 1992 Rio Summit there was a realisation that floods are important dimensions of the sustainability of the communities. The Ganga Flood Control Commission reports can serve as an useful aid to the government for flood relief. In Bihar, faulty land use, which results in blocking the drainage of rivers or its large tributaries, has caused severe damage.
After independence, embankments were one of the important means to control floods. The embankments fundamentally undermine natural drainage by interfering with its flow circuits. It also prevents water from draining back into the rivers. In a nutshell, embankments either end up making the rivers more volatile or transfer the fury of the flood to non-embanked areas.
Another way of controlling floods is to opt for rainwater harvesting. Attempts should be made to create water bodies which would store the water, either under the ground or in talaavs. During the Bangladesh floods, one US presidential committee under Harvard’s Roger Reveille calculated that millions of feet of water could be stored under the ground during floods. Though dams are important, there should be a better understanding of the frequency of water that floods the plains. The classic case is the Mekong River Agreement which provides for the minimum reverse flow of water in the monsoon into the Tonle Sap, a lake in Cambodia. In the same way, after the floods of 1998 China built the three Gorges Water Conservancy Project in Hubei province. The project consists of a water conservancy project, a reservoir construction and resettlement project, and a power transmission and transforming project. It is a massive project, millions of people have been rehabilitated before 2008, the year of the Olympics.
In 2007 and at the time of 60 years of independence devastating floods came and threatened the life of 20 per cent of the total population spread over 22 districts. The official death toll was 1200, the Government of Bihar appointed N. Sanyal to head the Committee on Bihar Floods. The report recommended that the possibility of procuring the equipment Hungary uses be explored as Hungary has embankments along the Danube. The report was submitted to the government early this year. The government is yet to go through its recommendations.
Thus, the time has come to analyse the various reports of the National Commission on Floods and analyse the success of flood control measures in other countries so that a long-term strategy can be drawn to control floods. This calls for a massive investment which Bihar cannot afford by itself. If the National Commission on Floods considers these problems and formulates policy, then with their human resources, Bihar will start growing to become one of the ideal States for all time to come and the politics of social justice will transform into the politics of the market.
1. Barker, Sophie, Caste at Home in Hindu India, Jonathan Cape, London, 1990.
2. Prasad, K.N., Dimensions of Development; Analysis of an Underdeveloped State, Vol.1, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1998.
3. Alagh, K. Yogender, “With Floods Comes the Gravy Train”, Indian Express, Delhi, June 2005.
4. Hindustan, Patna, July 3, 2003.
5. Krishna Gopal, Living with the Politics of Floods, The Indus Telegraph, April 30, 2005.
6. Mishra, Dinesh Kumar, Above the Danger Mark, World Commission on Dam, 1999, Vol.12 No.(I), January 1999.
7. Varma, Subodh, “Bihar Devastating Katrina”, The Times of India, August 26, 2008.
8. Shaibal, Gupta, Conversation (Discussion), Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), Patna, Bihar.
Dr Subodh Kumar is a Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi.
Monday, September 8, 2008
The floods, a tragedy that has engulfed the lives and livelihoods of uncountable number of people has severely affected 15 districts of Bihar. Media reports say around 3 millions or 30 lakh people have lost their houses, livelihoods and the right to life with dignity, which is commonly not considered a basic human right. The activists and experts who are working for the rescue or relief among the marooned people believe that the magnitude is much beyond the reported numbers. One of the reports states that over 1 lakh hectare or 247 thousand acres of agricultural land is destroyed ensuring that the future of food security and livelihoods is not so bright even after the floodwater recedes.
Dear friends, the floodwater is receding, creating space for epidemics, sanitation-related diseases and wide-scale corruption in implementation of relief works. The already delayed response from the media is rapidly withdrawing itself from the national calamity in Bihar.
The cry of the time is to ensure successful rescue of all the trapped people, irrespective of their castes, religion or any other considerations, as there are reports that 'fittest' compelling the rescue teams for caste-selective evacuations. There is a dire need of relief materials, rehabilitation and reconstruction-rebuilding strategies and initiatives and most importantly, strict monitoring of all such interventions.
The civil society, state governments and many others responded to the unprecedented disaster spontaneously and have offered relief material for the victims. The local government recklessly handled the situation before and after the breach of Kosi Embankment. The rescues and relief works offered by the government are also not so promising or convincing that the state machinery could be trusted.
It is suspected that the rescue and temporary relief will vanish with the receding water and subsiding media reports. The scars of the fury will remain for long, in the memories, and on the economy of millions of people. There will be the need of a timely and long-term rehabilitation of the livelihoods of affected people otherwise mass exodus is going to crush the already ill-paid workers and labourers in the small and big cities. Another reign of violation of labour rights and human rights is in offing, if we fail to act now, effectively.
Bihar Flood Relief Network, a forum of activists, civil society groups, concerned citizens and students has taken up the task and is engaged in creating a data-base of sincere groups and individuals working among the flood victims, actually the victims of ill-conceived and implemented government policies on handling the rivers of Bihar and everywhere else.
We request all those who are concerned with such annual tragedies and with the present Bihar flood in particular to join the struggle to defeat the ill affects of the calamity. Stand out with generous donations, moral and emotional supports for the victims and relief workers, volunteering for reconstruction of human lives and building constructive pressure on the concerned authorities, governments and media.
For further details please contact
Rakesh Singh, Phone: 91-9811972872, email: email@example.com
Vinay Kumar, Phone: 91-9810361918, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ishteyaque Ahmad, Phone: 91-9968329198, email@example.com
Following is the list of articles/services required in the flood-affected area
1. Doctors, besides, medicine experts the gynecologists are on high demand
2. Baby foods: milk powder and other processed food items
3. Plates & glasses
4. Cloths: unstitched – Cotton Saris, Dhoti, Lungi, Towels
5. Stitched - undergarments, cloths for kids, t-shirts and knickers
6. Soap: Lifebuoy
7. Food items: biscuits, namkeen, oils, pulses, sattu, gram, salt, sugar
9. Tents, Dari, plastic sheets
10. Candles, torch, match box
11. Buckets (15 litres) with mugs
12. Mosquito nets
List of required Medicines
1. Ciprofloxacin tablets and infusion
2. Chlorine tablets (Halogen tablets)
3. Levofloxacin tablets
4. Chloromyecetin capsules and injections
5. Ceftriaxone Injections
6. Chloroquine tablets and injections
7. Metronidazole Chloroquine tablets, suspension
8. Paracetamal tablets and suspension
9. B Complex tablets and syrup
10. Phensedyl DM cough syrup
11. Ranitidine tablets and injection
12. Antacids tablets and suspension
13. Cetrizine tablets and syrup
14. Ibuprofen tablets
15. Dexamethasone injections
16. Hydrocortisone injections
17. Deriphyllin injections
18. Electrol, Glucose and ORS Powder
19. Sanitary napkins/pads
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 18, 2008 (ENS) - The world's supplies of clean, fresh water cannot sustain today's "profligate" use and inadequate management, which have brought shrinking food supplies and rising food costs to most countries, WWF Director General James Leape told the opening session of World Water Week in Stockholm today.
"Behind the world food crisis is a global freshwater crisis, expected to rapidly worsen as climate change impacts intensify," Leape said. "Irrigation-fed agriculture provides 45 percent of the world's food supplies, and without it, we could not feed our planet's population of six billion people."
Leape warns that many of the world's irrigation areas are highly stressed and drawing more water than rivers and groundwater reserves can sustain, especially in view of climate change. At the same time, he said, freshwater food reserves are declining in the face of the quickening pace of dam construction and unsustainable water extractions from rivers.
At a time when billions of people live without access to safe drinking water or suffer ill health due to poor sanitation, when food producers battle biofuel producers for land and water resources, and when global climate change is altering the overall water balance, 2,500 water experts are gathered this week at the Stockholm International Fairs and Congress Center to craft solutions to these problems.
World Water Week is an annual event co-ordinated by the Stockholm International Water Institute. This year's conference has the overall theme of “Progress and Prospects on Water: For A Clean and Healthy World with Special Focus on Sanitation" in keeping with the UN declaration of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation.
Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands had good news for the delegates in his opening speech today.
The Prince of Orange, who chairs the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation during this special year, announced, "The number of people living without a supply of improved drinking water has now dropped well below one billion!"
"More than half the global population now have water piped to their homes and the number of people using unimproved water supplies continues to decline," he said, praising the delegates for this accomplishment.
This year, the prince said, progress towards adequate sanitation has begun on international, regional, national and local levels. "The regional sanitation conferences for example, such as LatinoSan, AfricaSan, EaSan and SacoSan, produced unprecedented declarations that provide a strong foundation for developing the water and sanitation sector in these regions," he said.
In June, the African Union Summit on Water and Sanitation in Sharm El Sheikh, attended by 52 heads of state and government, unanimously adopted a declaration on water and sanitation that shows that African leaders are giving top priority to water and sanitation, the prince said. "It also provides a solid basis for further developing the sector in Africa. I personally consider this result to be an enormous leap forward."
But Prince Willem said much more must be done to meet the UN's Millenium Development Goal to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 from the year 2000 baseline.
Citing a report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, he said, "The report's worrying conclusion is that, at the current rate, the world will miss its MDG sanitation target by more than 700 million people. If we are to reach the target we now need to provide at least 173 million people per year with access to improved sanitation."
A consistent supporter of World Water Week, the prince told the delegates he finds it "unthinkable" to let a year go by without visiting the conference, although he is supposed to be in Beijing observing the Olympic Games in his capacity as a member of the International Organizing Committee.
"I see similarities between these athletes and yourselves," said the prince. "You show the same commitment and willpower. And the Olympic Dream is also your dream: to strive for a bright future of mankind. ‘One world, one dream.' A world in which everyone can lead a healthy life in dignity. A world that offers the chance of personal development for all. This is our common dream."
The delegates will need all the inspiration they can get to overcome the problems they face.
As developing countries confront the first global food crisis since the 1970s as well as unprecedented water scarcity, a new 53 city survey presented at the conference by the International Water Management Institute indicates that 80 percent of those studied are using untreated or partially treated wastewater for agriculture.
In over 70 percent of the cities studied, more than half of urban agricultural land is irrigated with wastewater that is either raw or diluted in streams.
"Irrigating with wastewater isn't a rare practice limited to a few of the poorest countries," said IWMI researcher Liqa Raschid-Sally and lead author of a report on the survey results. "It's a widespread phenomenon, occurring on 20 million hectares across the developing world, especially in Asian countries, like China, India and Vietnam, but also around nearly every city of sub-Saharan Africa and in many Latin American cities as well."
Wastewater is most commonly used to produce vegetables and cereals, especially rice, according to this and other IWMI reports, raising concerns about health risks for consumers, particularly when they eat uncooked vegetables.
In Accra, Ghana's capital city, for instance, an estimated one-tenth of the city's two million inhabitants daily purchase vegetables produced on just 100 hectares of urban agricultural land irrigated with wastewater, says the IWMI report. "That gives you an idea," said Raschid-Sally, "of the large potential of wastewater agriculture for both helping and hurting great numbers of urban consumers."
"And it isn't just affluent consumers of exotic vegetables whose welfare is at stake," she added. "Poor consumers of inexpensive street food also depend on urban agriculture."
Consumers across the 53 cities said they would prefer to avoid wastewater produce. But most of the time, they have no way of knowing the origin of the products they buy. Farmers, too, are aware that irrigating with wastewater may pose health risks both for themselves and the consumers of their produce, but they have little choice, since safe groundwater is seldom an accessible alternative, according to the IWMI report.
Few developing countries have official, enforceable guidelines for the use of wastewater in agriculture. As a result, though the practice may be theoretically forbidden or controlled, it is in fact "unofficially tolerated," the IWMI found.
The report highlights indigenous practices that can reduce the health risks from wastewater agriculture. In Indonesia, Nepal, Ghana and Vietnam, for example, farmers store wastewater in ponds to allow suspended solids to settle out.
Countries lacking the means for adequate wastewater treatment can still reduce health risks through low-cost interventions, such as the use of drip irrigation and washing of fresh produce in clean water.
Of the world's total water resources, 97.5 percent is salty and of the remaining but mainly frozen freshwater, only one percent is available for human use, said Leape, the WWF chief.
"Even this tiny proportion, however, would be enough for humans to live on Earth if the water cycle was properly functioning and if we managed our water use wisely," he said.
But Leape warned the conference delegates that the world is a long way from being ready for a worsening water crisis in part because of climate change and lack of an ecosystem approach to freshwater management.
"Water management for human needs alone is damaging the natural systems we all depend on," Leape said. "No management is even worse."
"We are also concerned that the world continues to mainly discuss adaption to climate change rather than doing it," Leape said. "We have been doing it, all over the world, and we have found that that improving the health of freshwater ecosystems now makes a great contribution to improving their resilience to climate impacts in the future."Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The global food situation is in a bad shape. Several countries are facing food riots and hunger deaths. India after opting for a globalized economy is facing the threats of acute food scarcity though the governments assure that they have enough food and the stocks are more than previous years. This assurance cannot be challenged but the rising numbers of cases of malnutrition and hunger deaths/suicides explains that the majority of our population are unable to earn enough to buy food. We are already counting the hunger related deaths that is over 5,000 children below 5 years dying every day in our country. The global count is believed to be 80,000 persons dying per day due to malnutrition and hunger related deaths.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation and several other international institutions have a common say on the number of people drifting below the poverty line, at least 1 billion. The present food price crisis is going to increase the numbers of malnutritioned childhood and mother hood to new heights, beyond imaginations. And the reasons again will remain the same as before, the deteriorating purchasing capacities of the workers, landless farmers, poor and small peasantries and burgeoning demands from a small section of our societies.
Reasons cited for the present rising food prices and food security wreckage are varied. Some leaders having global influences are trying to fudge the realities, saying that affluence in Indian and Chinese middle class is responsible for the crisis world over. Food policy analysts and economy experts present a different set of reasons. In the context of Indian food security scenario following set of reasons are behind the diminishing food security.
1. Non-equitable and unsustainable land distribution
The largest democracy, India failed to make the Indian farmers the owners of the land they are tilling and the food they are producing. Big chunks of land are under the capture of landlords and the majority of farmers are either landless or having fragile landholdings. Around 65% of land owner Indian farmers have less than 1-hectare land in their possession. The process of dispossession is also taking at a very fast pace. In 1983, the percentage of landless households was 55.9% that increased to 62.1% in 2004-05. This clearly shows that the majority of households have very less control over the means of agricultural production and the produce both. The NSSO’s Round 61 data also reveals that the control is further diminishing which, finally flows into waning of food sovereignty of the people and dependence on market for food supplies increases.
It is the poor farmers that produce the food for the country while the big farmers tend to concentrate on the productions that yield best profits, not the one that will feed the country. It is a known fact that the farming population in the country is more than 65 percent, but yet the country could not feed its population because majority of the farmers are poor. If the poor farmers are provided with adequate resources, the world will have more than enough to eat.
2. Callousness towards irrigation for poor peasantries
Several rivers were dammed in the name of irrigation; less reaching to poor peasantries while the influential and high caste rich farmers and landlords reaped the benefits. Though Dalits, tribals, single women and other vulnerable sections paid the costs, they are still struggling to lodge their control over water resources. Several regions were intentionally kept out of the irrigation plans and the traditional irrigation systems failed due to absence of political will of governments and socio-political apathy.
3. Restructuring of agriculture in the Third World
Over the last 20-30 years, poor countries around the world, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, have been subjected to Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These structural adjustment programs have forced Third World governments to open up markets, land, and other resources to imperialist agribusiness, including food exporters. And they have hurt the mass of peasant producers. They force governments to cut subsidies to small farmers and support programs in rural areas, and to emphasize high-value export agriculture (like asparagus or exotic flowers).
The governments, inspired by neo-liberal designs ensured all the efforts to prove that rice and wheat (and other staples) could be purchased from world market at cheap rates and Indian farmers should focus more on export-oriented crops. And they succeeded in convincing the middle and rich farmers, and a good number of them switched to commercial crops. The food sovereignty got the jolt and the resulted into decline in food self-sufficiency. Countries like Malaysia saw their self-sufficiency in rice falling from 90% in 1970s to 70% now.
4. Food security is jeopardized for luxuries of a few
Vast tracks of agricultural fields and community lands have been allotted for producing bio-fuels and non-grain crops such as flowers, fruits and exotic vegetables. The ministry of agriculture is panning to divert around 12 million hectares, out of total 140 million hectares agricultural land available in India for the cultivation of Jatropha and other bio-fuel plants. The state government of Uttar Pradesh has issued licenses to 25 sugar mills for producing ethanol from sugarcane. Other state governments of sugarcane producing states may also follow the trend to protect the interest of sugar producing companies.
This might threat the availability of sugar and brown sugar/jaggery (Gur). On the other hand the government has banned export of prime grains like wheat and rice to arrest the spiralling prices of the grains. Giving licenses to sugar industries for ethanol production may result into changes in cropping pattern and farmers begin growing sugarcane dumping wheat or rice. This will further destroy the food security perspective.
5. Productivity has gone down
After several decades of over-use of chemicals in the fields the soil health is in a precarious state and the land productivity is consistently going down. The so-called Green Revolution – use of new seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides and wasteful use of water and wrong selection of crops, has been confirmed failed. The underground water systems are parched and a long-term threat of failed agriculture is the future of farming in Indian food baskets like Punjab, Haryana and Western UP.
Cropping patterns has changed and the traditional food grains have been replaced with alien commercialized seeds.
The over stressed environment is manifesting itself by erratic rainfall patterns and other natural calamities adversely effecting the agriculture and food productivity in various regions.
6. Financial speculation in agricultural commodities and hoarding of food
Future trading and speculative purchasing has resulted into hoarding of food and artificial food crisis. The multinational retail giants were allowed to purchase grains directly from farmers. Even after bumper production of grains and other food crops during the last two harvesting seasons the rates of food is going up regularly. The raids by food authorities yielded several thousand tons of food from hoarders. Still the real hoarders the retail giants are untouched and the committees constituted by the government have given clean chit to Futures Trading, saying there is no direct links between Futures and hoarding and rise in food prices. Though several national and international analysts and some governments have established the nexus time and again.
7. Industrialization of agriculture
In the most of the high yielding farm regions, agriculture has become industrialised and the self reliant and least energy intensive source of livelihood has become highly energy and capital intensive. This has further alienated and impoverished the already marginalized poor peasantry. High input costs have gripped the farmers in debt traps and the family and community food security of more than 70% of the peasantry is under severe threat of destruction.