Prompted by the NDTV Dialogues on Climate Change and its impact

ds ndtv dialogueExtract:

See the long and interesting film: Sonia Singh’s discussion with the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, former special Ambassador (under UPA government) of PM on climate change Shyam Saran, agricultural analyst Devinder Sharma and environmentalist Sunita Narain, here.

Fifty years of increased ‘green revolution’ productivity has entailed excessive use of fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides leading to a slow accumulation of toxins within the water, soil, food and ultimately people, of the Punjab region.

In 2009, a Greenpeace report carried out by scientists from the University of Exeter, found that water from local wells in Faridkot contained dangerously high levels of nitrates, suspected to be from the overuse of synthetic nitrate fertilisers in surrounding agricultural land.

punjab pesticide spraying

A year earlier, another study, ‘Metal exposure in the physically and mentally challenged children of Punjab, India’, by scientists from the Micro Trace Minerals Laboratory in Germany, also found elevated levels of a wide variety of heavy metals in local children. Two years later, the Pulitzer Centre’s website again focussed on a report from scientists who believe that excessive pesticide use in the region over the past 30-40 years has led to the accumulation of dangerous levels of toxins such as uranium, lead and mercury which are contributing to increased health problems in rural communities.

Devinder Sharma points out that Stanford University, in collaboration with the China Agricultural University, has compared prevailing farming systems with alternative approaches.

Laura Seaman reports on the Stanford Report, September 8, 2014, which was conducted for three years between 2009 and 2012, and spread over 153 locations in the intensively-farmed regions of Eastern and Southern China. Led by Professor Peter Vitousek, the study provides a route to reduce the contribution of agriculture to raising global temperatures. Its findings support Devinder Sharma’s repeated contention that the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which accounts for 25% of the total emissions, is to change the existing cropping systems to more ecologically sustainable farm practices. Sharma concludes:

“I see no reason why we can’t have an agriculture which does not devastate soil health, which does not contaminate the ground water, which does not lead to drying of water aquifers, which does not cause environmental pollution, which does not create super weeds and super bugs, which does not contaminate the food chain, which does not lead to global warming . . . It is certainly possible. All it needs is a political will”.



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