By Ana Kandwal:
The recent decade has seen a serious concern over the issue of environmental degradation and an urgent need for its sustainability has been raised. Consequently, attempts have been made by many institutions, both public as well as private, to promote sustainable growth especially in regards to the ecology.
During the past, till the introduction of the ‘LPG’ in the Indian economy, Indian agriculture was largely based on traditional knowledge and practices which mainly made use of organic mode of farming techniques and it is on this past practices that the modern proposal of the promotion of organic farming is based on (‘An Agriculture Testament’: Sir Albert Howard). Perhaps, an interesting argument that can be made against this is that the present agriculture is producing enough to meet the demand of the population and even export. But at what cost is it coming?
The introduction of a reckless chemical based agricultural policy in the recent decades has had adverse impact on the Indian agricultural practices and serious environmental concerns have been raised. Taking methodologies and practices from the west to enter the neo-liberal era and adopting to their mode of production led to the introduction of the famous ‘Green Revolution’, which was to address the issue of low productivity, but remained confined to defined geological areas favoring farming conditions aptly and now, for many a farmers, has turned into the ‘Red Revolution’ of their blood (In regards to chemical usage). As V. Sridhar quotes in his article, ‘Why do farmers commit suicides? A study of Andhra Pradesh’ in regards to farming inputs that: “The regime has had the effect of releasing control over the terms on which peasants access inputs. These inputs, ranging from power to pesticides have gone outside the ambit of state control.”
Moreover, the never ending demand by the developed nations from India for non-food grain products has further led to a pressing demand which is being met largely via the use of fertilizers and pesticides. The consumption of fertilizers in India over the last three decades has grown to half a million tonnes on an average per year. However, the efficiency of the fertilizers, as pointed out by experts, is only 30%-35% with the remaining amount seeping into the ground to mix with ground water. The areas making use of high levels of fertilizers has shown a drastic contamination of ground as well as irrigation water with nitrate levels being well over the safety level of 45mg/litre. (Organic Farming in India: Relevance, Problems and Constraints; Dr S. Narayan, NABARD)
The high doses of pesticides which increased from 24.32 thousand tonnes in 1970-75 to 75 thousand tonnes in 1990-91 have been having an adverse impact on the aquatic life, plants and animals. Time and again, animal deaths and human deaths as well, have been reported due to the excessive use of fertilizers.
All these factors completely come against this definition of sustainable agriculture as given out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation thatÂ “The successful management of resources for agriculture to satisfy changing human needs while maintaining or enhancing the quality of environment and conserving natural resources”.
Arguments may be raised over this and several critiques may also come forward but what needs to be kept in mind is that sustainable agriculture is of utmost importance and this can be achieved by encouraging the use of organic farming, which is currently limited to an area of just 41,000 ha in India, only 0.03% of the total cultivated area. This comes in complete contrast to the area usage around the world which varies between 3.70%-11.30%.
The global Â increase in the area under organic farming is a result of high awareness of health problems caused by contaminated food, ill effects of environmental degradation, appropriate support by government and organisation and have gained strong support not only by local governments but also by international organisations such as European Union and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM). Some of the countries abroad have shown an increase in the organic production by 20%.
However, in India, there have been many a problems that have caused a failure of usage of organic farming. This has resulted due to failure of linkages between the farmers and markets and absence of financial support from the government. The only policy in this regard has been that of National Standards of Organic Production in 2000 (NSOP).