Friday, 27 May 2016

Drought Special Issue MAY 2016: 1-15 fortnightly



    


Drought Special Issue 

MAY 2016: 1-15 fortnightly



GREEN
      FEATURES


                                                      - जलवायु संकट, पारिस्थिकी
                                                     - प्रदूषण                
                                             - आदिवासी विमर्श
                                              - कृषि और किसानी
                                        - जल दर्शन
                                                  - देशज ज्ञान और स्वस्थ
                                     - विविध


Swaraj represents a genuine attempt to regain control of the 'self' - our self-respect, self-responsibility, and capacities for self-realization - from institutions of dehumanization. As Gandhi states, "It is swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves."  



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विषयवस्तु



जलवायु संकट: (सूखे पर विशेष)
·                         Two German states hit 100% renewable electricity
·                         Four critical voices on India’s perennial drought problem
·                         Drought migration forces aged to toil as farm hands
·                       Bundelkhand's cycle of droughts: is it man-made?
·                        Unseasonal rain: 601 farmer suicides in Maharashra in just 3 months
·                        Kharif crops hit by drought, pulses take a Maha pounding
·                       Water will continue to be scarce
·                       In Fact: Why sugarcane can’t be blamed for Marathwada drought woes
·                       Lessons from semi-arid regions on how to adapt to climate change
·                        Resort to heritage

कृषि और किसानी:
·                       Maharashtra govt says mulling farmer insurance as opposition cites TOI’s suicide reports
·                      Study: Agri-corporates, not farmers, hog loans
·                      Maharashtra crosses 60,000 farm suicides
·                      State government's logic for its low farmer suicide count: Only 3 blamed rains
·                       Parched earth, broken promises -
                 Ground reports from Marathwada give the lie to the    government’s claims that it is doing    everything it can to address the drought situation
‘Progressive’ farmer shows the way to success in parched Bundelkhand
·                        New water purification system could help slake the world’s thirst
·                       Co-operative farming
·                       Farmers reap a bountiful supply of tank-bed soil
·                        Farming for a Small Planet: Agro ecology Now
·                       Commentary on Farming for a Small Planet: Agro ecology Now

जल दर्शन:
·                       Conservation: Lessons from ancient India

देशज ज्ञान और स्वस्थ:
·                        भारत में गोमूत्र से विकसित कीटनाशक को अमेरिकी पेटेंट

विविध
·                       Revised Solid Waste Management Rules Mandate Inclusion of Wastepickers!
·                       When communalists turns on environmentalists
·                      वजीराबाद जलाशय मे पानी 25 फीसदी घटा
·                       सियासत के चलते लूपलाइन मे पानी एक्स्प्रेस
·                      सूखा प्रभावित प्रदेशो के मुख्यमंत्रियों की बुलाई बैठक –प्रभावित राज्यो के लिए चलेगी पशुचारे की विशेष रेल गड़िया |
·                     खाकपति से लखपति बने किसान की कहानी
·                    Drinking water; sipping poison-Fluoride contamination has severely affected residents  in  drought hit areas
·                  Remote sensing and ‘divining’ in a desperate quest for water
·                   Scarcity in Mettur's vicinity
·                  Water level in dams dips to a new low
·                  Politics over an empty water-train in Bundelkhand
·                  A new plan to clean up Yamuna
·                  Food in India untested for diabetes-linked chemical
·                   Water shortage likely in the Capital






*****




जलवायु संकट


Two German states hit 100% renewable electricity
29 April 2016; Europe Sustainable Energy



The German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein generated more renewable power in 2015 than households and businesses in each state consumed.
Germany has 16 federal states, three of which are city-states, leaving 13 area states known as Flächenländer.
Renewable energy production is easier in Germany’s rural areas than in cities, and low population density means that power consumption is also lower making it easier for rural states to reach 100 per cent renewable electricity.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which borders the Baltic and Poland, reached 120 per cent renewable electricity in 2013.
The state increased its net share of renewables in power supply to 130 per cent last year.
Onshore wind power accounted for about 2.6 TWh of the total of 4.9 TWh, followed by power from biomass at 2.3 GWh, PV at 1.2 TWh, and 0.6 TWh of offshore wind.
The state of Schleswig-Holstein ocated, bordering Denmark near the North Sea, recorded 78 per cent renewable power in 2014 and reached 100 per cent net last year, according to analysts.
Biomass made up 46 per cent of this energy, followed by 44 per cent wind power and 10 per cent other.

Four critical voices on India’s perennial drought problem

 Apr 29, 2016

Many parts of India is in the grip of severe drought, some for the third consecutive year, leading to growing hunger, mass migration, water conflicts and farmer suicides. We present four well-known voices – Yogendra Yadav, Jean Dreze, Sunita Narain and the late Anil Agarwal –  on India’s perennial drought problem, its causes and possible solutions.

(1)   Maharashtra ignored my warnings on drought: Yogendra Yadav
MUMBAI,
Accusing Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of ignoring his warnings on the severity of the drought impacting Marathawada, where the local police had to invoke Section 144 to prevent violence over water, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav on Saturday said 31 per cent of the gram panchayats in drought-affected districts had not shown any expenditure under MGNREGS, according to official data, till March 31.
Mr. Yadav said his organisation had taken out the Samvedna Yatra across drought-affected regions in Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana from October 2 to examine the impact of the drought. On October 8, he had written to the Chief Ministers of all States, including Maharashtra, specifying the immediate measures needed to be taken to alleviate the sufferings of the rural population.
In his four-page letter, Mr Yadav had suggested that the Maharashtra government officially declare drought to prise open the funds from the State Disaster Relief Fund, take emergency measures to tackle the water crisis, implement the rural employment guarantee scheme and the State Employment Guarantee Scheme, restructure agri-loans, enhance ratio under the PDS, and compensate farmer for crop losses.
“On September 30, 2015, the monsoon ended, and it was clear on October 1 that Marathawada would face another drought. Had the government acted upon our suggestions, things would not have reached such severity,” Mr. Yadva said, releasing his letter.
In the letter, Mr. Yadav had suggested to the government to stop any diversion of water for non-essential purposes. He had suggested temporary ban on supply of water for water-intensive sugarcane crops, ban reopening of sugar factories, regulating drawing of water by bottling plants, stopping unauthorised diversion of water for industries.
“It is a crime against humanity to supply water to sugarcane crops when there is acute drinking water shortage. Activists have repeatedly pointed out how sugar factories are sucking out water in the Marathawada region, but yet in Latur, water was supplied to sugarcane farming,” he said.
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    2)   A drought of action

India has a lasting infrastructure of public support that can, in principle, be expanded in drought years to provide relief. But business as usual seems to be the motto

Droughts in India used to be times of frantic relief activity. Large-scale public works were organised, often employing more than 1,00,000 workers in a single district. Food distribution was arranged for destitute persons who were unable to work. Arrangements were also made for debt relief, cattle camps, water supply and more. The drought relief system was best developed in the western States of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, but the basic framework was much the same elsewhere even if its implementation often fell short.
This year, nothing like the same sense of urgency can be observed, despite 256 districts being declared drought-affected. To some extent, of course, people’s ability to withstand drought on their own has increased: incomes have risen, the rural economy is more diversified, and water supply facilities have improved. Also, a semblance of social security system has emerged in rural India, with permanent income support measures such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the Public Distribution System (PDS), midday meals and social security pensions. This also reduces people’s dependence on special relief measures in drought years.
None of this, however, obviates the need for active intervention in a drought situation. Despite rapid economic growth and some entitlements, the rural poor in India continue to live in conditions of appalling deprivation and insecurity. And in some respects, notably water scarcity, the impact of drought may be worse than before. Recent reports from Bundelkhand and elsewhere confirm that without emergency support, drought continues to plunge millions of people into intolerable hardship.
To some extent, the nature of the required interventions has changed. The simplest way of preventing starvation in a drought situation today is to intensify the permanent income support measures mentioned earlier, for instance by expanding employment under MGNREGS, providing special food rations under the PDS, and arranging for improved school meals. That may not be enough, but it would be a good start.

The MGNREGS funds crunch

There are, however, no sign of this happening. According to official data, the MGNREGS generated 230 crore person-days of work in 2015-16. This essentially restored MGNREGS employment generation to the level it had reached before crashing to 166 crore person-days in 2014-15, when a new government took charge at the Centre. However, the Finance Minister had not provided for this recovery. The result was a mountain of arrears at the end of 2015-16 — more than Rs.12,000 crore. Yet the Finance Minister continued the unspoken policy (initiated by the previous government) of keeping the MGNREGS budget more or less constant in money terms year after year. If last year’s employment level is to be maintained this year, the Central government would need to spend at least Rs. 50,000 crore, rising to more than Rs. 60,000 crore if arrears are to be cleared — a legal obligation since MGNREGS workers have a right to payment within 15 days. Yet the allocation for MGNREGS in this year’s Budget is only Rs. 38,500 crore. Unless the Central government accepts the need for a large injection of funds, MGNREGS employment is all set to contract again, or wage payments will be postponed — both would be a disaster in a drought year as well as a violation of people’s entitlements under the law.

Slipping up on food security

It is arguable that the PDS is even more important than MGNREGS as a tool of drought relief. Monthly food rations under the PDS are more regular and predictable than MGNREGS work. They also cover a much larger fraction of the rural population — 75 per cent under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). A well-managed PDS is a major safeguard against hunger and starvation.
It is no accident that the worst reports of food deprivation come from Uttar Pradesh, which is nowhere near implementing the NFSA. No Indian State has more to gain than U.P. from the NFSA. Before the Act came into force, barely one-fourth of the rural population in U.P. benefited from the PDS under the “below poverty line” (BPL) category. The rest received nothing as the “above poverty line” (APL) quota was routinely sold in the open market by corrupt middlemen. Further, even BPL cards were often in the wrong hands. The NFSA is a chance for the government of U.P. to clean up this mess and cover 80 per cent of the rural population under an improved PDS, as many of the poorer States have already done to a large extent.
Unfortunately, recent reports on the status of the NFSA in U.P. are most alarming. Rapid investigations conducted recently in Moradabad, Rae Bareli and Lucknow districts (the last one just 23 km from the State Assembly) all came to the same conclusion: NFSA ration cards are yet to be distributed, many people are not even aware of the Act, and the same flawed system continues much as before. So much for Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s upbeat statement (made twice, on record, on April 7, 2016) that “we have implemented the Right to Food Act”. One wonders whether he knows that elections are coming up next year in U.P., and whether he thinks that this is the way to win them. Opposition parties, it seems, are equally blind to the situation.
In other States, the status of the NFSA varies a great deal, from dismal (e.g. in Rajasthan) to reasonably promising (in many of the eastern States). Alas, these developments are receiving very little attention. Few issues are more important at this time than the successful roll-out of the NFSA, yet it seems to be off the Central government’s radar. The Finance Minister’s recent Budget speech, for instance, did not make a single reference to it, or for that matter to nutrition in general. In fact, the Central government (led by the Prime Minister’s Office) is making things worse by pushing for Aadhaar-based biometric authentication of PDS beneficiaries. This wholly inappropriate technology has already caused havoc in Rajasthan, and is all set to disrupt the PDS across the country if the Central government has its way.
For the first time, India has a lasting infrastructure of public support that can, in principle, be expanded in drought years to prevent hunger and starvation. Business as usual, however, seems to be the motto. The price is paid by millions of people who are not just exposed to intense hardship but also losing valuable human and physical capital, condemning them to further poverty in the future.
Jean Drèze is Visiting Professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.

(3)   Sunita Narain: Permanently fighting drought
April 24, 2016 Sunita Narain 

Jhabua late 1980s. This tribal and hilly district of Madhya Pradesh looked like the moonscape - all around me were bare brown hills. There was no water. No work. Despair all around. I can still see the faces of people, crunched on the side of the broken dusty road, breaking stones. This was what drought relief was all about - work in the scorching sun to dig pits for trees that did not survive; repairing roads that got damaged each year or building walls that went nowhere. It was unproductive work. But it was all that people had to survive this cursed time. What was also clear then was that the impact of drought was pervasive and long term - it destroyed the livestock economy and put people in a spiral of debt. One severe drought would set back all development work for years.

I write this as the country once again reels under crippling drought. But this drought is different. In the 1990s, it was the drought of a poor India. This 2016 drought is of richer and more water-guzzling India. This classless drought makes for a crisis that is more severe and solutions more complex. But it is also clear that drought in India is not a new phenomenon, nor is it going away soon. The fact is that the severity and intensity of drought is not about lack of rainfall, it is about the lack of planning, foresight and criminal neglect. Drought is man-made. Let's be clear about this.

In the decade of 2000, there was rain - years of deficiency were fewer - and there were government programmes designed to build water structures across the country. Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNRES) millions of checkdams, ponds and other structures were even constructed. But as the intention was not to fight against drought, only provide employment, the impact of this labour has never shown up in the country's waterline. The structures in most cases were holes in the ground - that quickly filled up with soil by the next season.

But this is not the only reason for today's water desperation: the fact is that India has prospered over these decades. This means that there is more water to be used and even less to be saved for times of scarcity.

In today's India, water demand has increased manifold. Today, cities drag water from miles away for their consumption. Industries, including power plants, take what they can from where they can. The water they use is returned as sewage or waste water. Then farmers grow commercial crops - from sugarcane to banana. They dig deeper and deeper into the ground to pump water for their irrigation needs.

This modern day drought of rich India has to be combined also with another development: climate change. The fact is that rain is becoming even more variable, unseasonal and extreme. This will only exacerbate the crisis. It is time we understood that as drought is man-made, it does not have to stay. It can be reversed. It can be managed. But then we really need to get our act together.

What needs to be done is as follows: First, do everything we can to augment water resources - catch every drop of water; store it; recharge groundwater. To do this we need to build millions more structures, but this time based on planning for water and not just employment. This means being deliberate and purposeful. It also means giving people the right to plan where to locate the water body and the right to manage it for their need. Today, invariably, the land on which the water body is built belongs to one department and the land from where the water will be harvested and channels from where the water will be brought belong to another person or even another government department.

Second, revise and update the drought code. It is not as if the richer parts of the world do not have droughts - Australia and California have gone through years of water scarcity. But their governments respond by shutting off all non-essential water use from watering lawns to hosing down cars and much more. This is what is needed in India.

Third, obsessively work to secure water in all times. This means insisting on water codes for everyday India. We need to reduce water usage in all sectors - from agriculture, urban to industry. This means benchmarking this use and setting targets for reduced consumption year on year. It would mean doing everything from introducing water efficient fixtures to promoting water-frugal foods. It means making our war against drought permanent. Only then will drought not become permanent.

(4 ) One missed opportunity, 330 million drought-stricken Indians

Anil Agarwal   Wednesday 20 April 2016

We could have been drought-proof by 2010 had we only harvested rainwater. Sixteen years later, India's villages are paying the price
It doesn’t matter how much rain you get, if you do not capture it you can still be short of water. It is unbelievable but it is true that Cherrapunji in Meghalaya which gets 11,000 mm annual rainfall, still suffers from serious drinking water shortage.

Now contrast with this. Just the simple richness of rainwater availability that few of us realise because of the speed with which water, the world’s most fluid substance, disappears. Imagine you had a hectare of land in Barmer in Rajasthan, one of India’s driest places, and you received 100 mm of water in a year, common even for this area. That means that you received as much as one million litres of water —enough to meet drinking and cooking water needs of 182 people at a liberal 15 litres per day. Even if you are not able to capture all that water—this would depend on the nature of rainfall events and type of runoff surface, among other factors —you could still, even with rudimentary technology, capture at least half a million litres a year.

In 1991, India had 587,226 inhabited villages with a total population of 629 million giving us an average population of 1,071 persons per village, up from 942 persons in 1981. Let us, therefore, assume that the average population of an Indian village today is about 1,200. India’s average annual rainfall is about 1,170 mm.

If even only half of this water can be captured, though with technology inputs this can be greatly increased, an average Indian village needs 1.12 hectares to capture 6.57 million litres of water it will use in a year for cooking and drinking. If there is a drought and rainfall levels dip to half the normal, the land required would rise to a mere 2.24 hectares. The amount of land needed to meet the drinking water needs of an average village will vary from 0.10 hectares in Arunachal Pradesh (average population 236) where villages are small and rainfall high to 8.46 hectares in Delhi where villages are big (average population 4769) and rainfall is low. In Rajasthan, the land required will vary from 1.68-3.64 hectares in different meteorological regions and, in Gujarat, it will vary from 1.72- 3.30 hectares (see table: Every village in India can meet its own water needs). And, of course, any more water the villagers catch can go for irrigation.

Does this sound like an impossible task? Is there any village that does not have this land availability? India’s total land area is over 300 million hectares. Let us assume that India’s 587,000 villages can harvest the runoff from 200 million hectares of land, excluding inaccessible forest areas, high mountains and other uninhabited terrains, that still gives every village on an average access to 340 hectares or a rainfall endowment of 3.75 billion litres of water. These calculations show the potential of rainwater harvesting is enormous and undeniable. There is just no reason whatsoever for thirst in India.

Therefore, it is possible to drought proof the entire country. Not just drinking water, most of India’s agricultural fields should also be able to get some irrigation water to grow less water-intensive crops every year through rainwater harvesting.



http://static.downtoearth.org.in/images/iconstopryCam.jpgSource: India Meteorological Department for normal rainfall data and projections of average population in 2000 based on Census of India data for 1981 and 1991.



Drought migration forces aged to toil as farm hands
With the able-bodied migrating in large numbers, 72-year-olds are returning to hard physical labour they cannot cope with in Marathwada.
 

BEED: A single bag of jowar was all that her two sons left Hansabai Kole when they migrated to work in sugarcane fields 200km away, last October. Soon, almost the entire village of Yevalewadi left to look for jobs as cane cutters, leaving only the elderly and young children behind.
Once the food ran out, the 72-year-old became a farm hand. She spends several hours a day scouting for work in the parched fields of drought-hit Marathwada's Patoda taluka. "On a day when I find work, it means bending over for eight to nine hours to help harvest jowar," she says. She makes Rs 100 a day, barely enough to help scrape together her meals of bhakri and salt. Hansabai's greatest fear is of falling ill, since her only companions are even older than her.
"Last week, I started feeling faint, so I hoisted myself onto the ST bus to see the doctor. My husband is too old to accompany me," she says.

Yevalewadi has become a ghost-town, each ancient wooden door sealed with a lock. The animal sheds are bare and the village square is deserted. In the village of 900, barely 200 remain.
Marathwada is known for the seasonal migration of cane cutters, who head to sugar factories in Western Maharashtra and Karnataka from October to April each year. Roughly 10 lakh small farmers migrate each year after sowing their crop, with Beed being the largest hub.
But this year, unions say, the drought has pushed migration up by 30%, so 13 lakh sugarcane cutters have migrated. "In our estimation, there are at least 3lakh more migrants this year," says Keshvrao Andhale of the Sugarcane Cutters and Transporters Union.
The drought this year is so widespread that farmers with large holdings of up to 20 acres have also joined migrants of Georai taluka, where several debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide. "Two of my brothers had to work as cane cutters for the first time this year," says Bharat Shendge, whose family owns 20 acres.
In Yevalewadi, where farmers have lost two crops in the drought, more than one family member has migrated. "Last year, only one son worked as a sugarcane cutter. This year, both my sons have gone," says Bhausaheb Yevale. The family has a Rs 70,000 bank loan.

Compensation delayed
Although the state government claims it has distributed nearly Rs 4,000 crore as relief to farmers who lost their crop, many here say they have not received the money. The state's decision to send it directly to bank accounts is a major obstacle for those who have no access to banks. State agriculture minister Eknath Khadse claims, "By now 90% of the farmers have received the money. Those without accounts can open them under our Jan Dhan scheme."

Cut in MNREGA work?
Villages across this belt complain of the lack of work under the rural job security scheme MNREGA, which could have otherwise have helped stem migration. Beed district has 8 lakh registered workers but at the moment, only 9,291 are employed.
"This season, we have not been able to get any MNREGA work in the village," says Ganesh Sawant, the
sarpanch of Ranjani village in Georai.
However, officials say MNREGA works have not reduced. "Sugarcane cutting is a traditional occupation. It pays more than MNREGA work and people are able to get a hefty advance, so they prefer it," says agriculture minister Khadse.
Cane cutters have access to advance payments between Rs 30,000-60,000 at the beginning of the season, which helps many settle pending debts. The work fetches roughly Rs 300-400 per day for a husband and wife team, much higher than MNREGA wages.
However, union leader Andhale says once cane workers return to their villages in April and May, jobs on MNREGA will be their only lifeline. "It's important for more jobs to be generated by then," he says.

Bundelkhand's cycle of droughts: is it man-made?

Monday 09 June 2014

Study by National Institute of Disaster Management shows authorities neglected to break the cycle of droughts when rains were plentiful
Drought in Bundelkhand region of central India has been a matter of concern for decades. A new study by National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) now gives a composite map of the drought which explains the reason for the region witnessing drought year on year.

The study shows that droughts are not a result of just climatic conditions, but also man-made.   "The
composite map  is aimed at giving an overall scenario for drought in the region. The policies have to consider all of them together, an effort which has not been made earlier," says Anil K Gupta, associate professor at NIDM and principal investigator of the study.

NIDM undertook the study jointly with Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to understand the drought patterns and differential role of mitigation strategies in Bundelkhand in order to suggest strategies for future.

The research report—Vunerability Assessment and mitigation anlysis for drought in Bundelkhand region—threw up many more issues. It is to be noted that Bundelkhand comprises 13 districts—seven in Uttar Pradesh (Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda and Chitrakut) and six in Madhya Pradesh (Datia, Tikamgarh, Chattarpur, Damoh, Sagar and Panna). It covers an area of 7.08 million hectares (ha).

The report talks of three kinds of droughts—meteorological, agricultural and hydrological.

Gupta says the most important finding that has emerged from the study is about anomalies between different kinds of droughts. "The usual pattern is that first the meteorological drought—rainfall much below average—happens. It leads to agricultural drought in the same year because India depends on monsoons for agricultural production. If the meteorological drought continues for the second consecutive year, then the hydrological drought—below average water availability—occurs," says Gupta. "We have collected evidence that in Bundelkhand this pattern [cycle of drought] has been broken many times, indicating that there are lapses in the efforts made by the authorities to provide relief,"  says Gupta. For instance, reasons for lack of drinking water in 2011 were man-made as rainfall was ample.

In 2011, all the 13 districts of the region received above average rainfall. According to the state meteorology department, Banda district received 252.4 mm rainfall (214 per cent above normal) between June 1 and June 30. During the same period, Hamirpur recorded 253.9 mm rains (334 per cent above normal), Jalaun 266 mm (153 per cent above normal), Jhansi 266.1 mm (203 per cent above normal) and Mahoba recorded 185.2 mm rains (210 per cent above normal). Lalitpur was under the threat of floods with 644 mm rains which was 5.8 times (588 per cent) more than normal for the district. 

However, in the same year, residents of Bundelkhand experienced acute scarcity of water for agricultural and domestic use. "In other words, in that very year people faced hydrological drought in the region," says Gupta. He says systems have to put in place to conserve water during such times to be used in times of scarcity.

Funds not utilized


The expenditure from
Bundelkhand package  by National Rainfed Area Authority, announced in 2007 for drought mitigation strategies, speaks for itself. Till November 2012, NRAA had received confirmation for completion of works worth Rs 179 crore out of Rs 1,005 crore allocated. This amounts to only 18 per cent of the total allocated fund.

Further, as on March 31, 2013, Madhya Pradesh spent 58.4 per cent and Uttar Pradesh 43.89 per cent of the funds. Rs 1,400 crore was allocated for the financial year 2013-14 under the package; how much of the funds were utilised and in what manner is still being ascertained.

History of neglect


J S Samra, CEO of NRAA, says that the situation in Bundelkhand has to be seen in the historical context of the region. "This has been a neglected area. After the revolt of 1857, which primarily covered this region, the British neglected development of the region as a punishment to the people. Even after Independence, the region had a number of dacoits which hampered development. Quality services could not be maintained for these reasons," says Samra. He says that both the states, treat posting of government officials to Bundelkhand as punishment postings.

"This should change. To motivate good officers to take up challenging job like managing a drought-prone region, the governments should provide incentives," adds Samra. He says the package is being implemented and a third party is monitoring the work. "They will come out with a mid-term performance report in few months," he adds.

Climate change impacts


However, climate change is not to be ignored. The climatic modelling experiments by United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has predicted that temperatures are likely to be higher by about 2 to 3.5°C in Bundelkhand region by the end of this century. The impacts of drought years are already visible. In the past four to five years, there has been news of mass migration, starvation deaths, farmer suicides and even the “mortgaging” of women.

NIDM's recommendations


The report has made following recommendations:
1.       The percentage of industrial units in Bundelkhand is only 1.5 per cent as compared to 51.3 per cent in Western Uttar Pradesh. To create alternative employment, new small-scale and tiny units in 26 districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and seven districts of Bundelkhand should be given capital subsidy.
2.       Agriculture is being promoted through irrigation, with less emphasis on promotion of dryland agriculture and reclamation of wastelands in the region. Dryland agriculture holds the key to departure from dependence on rain and rain-fed systems.
3.       The focus so far has been on major crops of kharif and rabi seasons. The emphasis should be on minor crops like essential oils, aromatic and medical plants, floriculture, fisheries, and dairying promotion integrated with wasteland development, animal husbandry and livelihood diversification programmes.

Unseasonal rain: 601 farmer suicides in Maharashra in just 3 months

As many as 601 farmers have killed themselves in Maharashtra in the three-month span between January and March this year. This works out to a chilling statistic of almost seven farmer suicides every day, according to the state government's own figures.






 
In 2014, the state had reported 1,981 farmer suicides. In just three months this year, it has reached 30% of that figure. This despite the state government's claims that halting farmer suicides is its top priority.
The suicide rate had already started climbing with the onset of the drought last year. The unseasonal rain which impacted a wide expanse of crops and continues to pound the state has made things worse.
The cotton belt of Vidarbha - from where chief minister Devendra Fadnavis hails - continues to report the highest number of cases, the data shows. More than half the suicides between January and March - 319 in all — were from Vidarbha. The arid zone of Marathwada reported the second-highest number, with 215 cases. These regions were worst hit by the drought and have also been impacted by unseasonal rain.
In 2014, the state reported the same trend. Of the 1,981 cases, the highest toll of 1,097 was from Vidarbha. Marathwada accounted for 574 cases, reporting a steep rise in suicides once the drought began. In December 2014, Marathwada reported 151 cases, the highest toll in the state.
Farmers' groups say the state's Rs 4,000 crore drought relief package translated into a very small sum per farmer since as many as 90 lakh farmers were impacted. "It works out to just around Rs 1,875 an acre. Also, banks continued to demand repayments from farmers despite instructions from the state to restructure loans," said Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.
The low price of crops and the lack of bank credit to farmers - which underpin the larger crisis in the farm sector - have not been addressed by the government, he pointed out. "It costs Rs 6,800 to grow a quintal
of cotton. The sale price fixed by the government is Rs 4,000. Even without a drought, farmers were in debt," Tiwari said.
"The farm crisis preceded our government. We have announced a series of measures which will soon have an impact," said state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse. The state hopes to boost water conservation
through its Jalyukta Shivar Yojana. It has also drafted an action plan which includes restructuring bank loans and waiving loans worth Rs 171 crore from moneylenders. The state has also set up a committee to
monitor vulnerable families and planned schemes to aid education and medical treatment for families of farmers.
Kharif crops hit by drought, pulses take a Maha pounding
A huge drop in crop yields and the drought has impacted the arrival of supplies in the state’s main agricultural markets.
MUMBAI: Moong production in Maharashtra is set to drop by a steep 61% and soyabean yield by 59% compared to last year as a result of the sweeping drought that set in nine months ago. While the havoc caused by the recent spell of unseasonal rains is yet to sink in, the drought which preceded it has already hit the production of the state's main kharif crops.
The drought was triggered by scanty rains between June and October 2014, which devastated the kharif crop (June-September season). Considered one of the most widespread agricultural droughts in recent years, it has led to massive crop losses. Nearly two-thirds of Maharashtra's villages reported half the standard crop yield during the kharif season.
The result is a steep decline in the production of food crops, mainly pulses, state government estimates show.
The tur yield is set to fall by 42 % and udid by 48% compared to last year. Some cereals, including maize, have been impacted, with yield expected to fall by 52%. Kharif jowar and bajra could see a fall of over 30% while ragi is set to see a 20% decline.
These estimates from the state agriculture department are part of the memorandum submitted by the Maharashtra government to seek central aid for the drought.
Cash crops have also taken a hit, the data shows. Besides the soyabean crop, the estimates show a 27% fall in the production of cotton and a steep 56% decline in kharif oilseeds.
More worrying, the drought has also impacted the arrival of farm produce in the state's main agricultural markets. "The arrival of farm produce in 2014-15 has been reduced by almost 50% compared to last year," the state's memorandum points out. This includes an almost 50% fall in soyabean arrivals, a near 62% drop in groundnut produce and a 43% fall in cotton produce.
The figures contrast the arrival of farm produce at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees between September and November 2013 and the corresponding period in 2014.
State agriculture minister Eknath Khadse says the reduced yields will not cause a shortage. "The kharif crop losses are expected to be more than 50%. But this may not lead to a shortage in the state because we can get supplies from other states," he said.
But experts say the state is set to face rising prices, especially for pulses. "Since pulses are imported, a shortage will push up prices. The price of tur dal has already shot up to Rs 6,000 per quintal, much higher than the minimum support price of Rs 4,200," says farm activist Vijay Jawandia.


Water will continue to be scarce
A focus on minor irrigation projects and drip irrigation could go a long way in coping with frequent crises.




SOlution: "Increased water conservation and promoting cultivation of less water-intensive crops can go a long way towards coping with the crisis." A farmer in drought-hit Ahmedabad.

 

 

The incidence of drought can no longer be considered a rare event. Climate change has quickened the occurrence of extreme events such as drought, floods and cyclones in different parts of India. It is alarming that the frequency and severity of such extreme events has increased in recent decades. India has experienced numerous drought years in the past, but the frequent recurrence after 1988 — in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2015 — is highly worrisome. It causes enormous hardships to resource-poor farmers, who are forced to fend themselves through sale of assets and migration to urban areas. Though the impact of drought varies across regions, it invariably affects human, livestock and natural resources.
Severe drought conditions are being experienced in some parts of the country this year as well. The Union government has already declared that the country is grappling with severe drought conditions which are estimated to have affected a sizeable population, nearly 330 million people. More than 50 per cent of the districts across the country have had rainfall deficit, many in tandem with high temperatures of above 45 degrees Celsius. The most severely affected States include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Telangana. Given the current scenario, the government has initiated drought relief programmes to compensate crop losses, encourage judicious use of groundwater, and has sent ‘water trains’ to the highly water-scarce areas besides extending financial help to the States to cope with the emerging crisis.
As much as these relief measures are essential to ease the drinking water shortage, the problem is deep-rooted and has important implications for the agricultural sector that provides livelihood to almost 75 per cent of the population directly and indirectly. Drought conditions would severely affect the production and the productivity of key crops viz. wheat and rice, which contribute substantially to India’s food basket. In a situation of a continuous decline in the level of water tables and low capacity of water reservoirs, irrigation would contribute little to help in the drought conditions.
Scaling up irrigated area

Government statistics have hardly shown any increase in the total net irrigated area, which has been hovering around 63 million hectares and constitutes only 45 per cent of the total area sown in the country. Some improvement in irrigation intensity has taken place in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in recent years. But it appears to be insignificant in view of a massive increase in real public investment in major, medium and minor irrigation from Rs.235 billion in 2004-05 to Rs.309 billion in 2013-14. While the capital expenditure in major projects increased by 3.5 times, the investment in minor irrigation increased by 2.5 times only. A virtually stagnancy in irrigated area — especially of the area under canal irrigation — raises concerns about the efficiency of the ongoing investments and the quantum of investment that is further required to scale up area under irrigation.
A study carried out by International Food Policy Research Institute shows a sharp drop in the marginal returns from additional public investment in major and medium irrigation from 1.41 per cent during the nineties to 0.12 per cent when expenditure incurred during the 2000s is also considered. Evidence also shows that the ratio of irrigation potential created from public expenditure is higher for minor irrigation projects than medium and large irrigation projects. Unfortunately, minor irrigation projects have received only scant attention from policymakers over time. Minor irrigation structures play a significant role in recharging of wells, drought mitigation and flood control.
Long-term remedial options


While the India Meteorological Department has forecast above average rainfall during the upcoming South-West monsoon and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley expressed confidence that agriculture would withstand the ongoing drought, the situation calls for long-term solutions. Increased water conservation and promoting cultivation of less water-intensive crops can go a long way towards coping with the crisis. The other remedial option could be to adopt drought-resistant crop varieties as has been done in some parts of Odisha for paddy/rice through the help of the International Rice Research Institute. This can maintain productivity and income of the farmers and also ensure price stability to the consumers. It is important for the government to sustain an increased investment in irrigation but at the same time gear up towards faster completion of the ongoing projects.
Micro irrigation system comprising drip and sprinkler irrigation has greater potential to improve water use efficiency in agriculture. Despite various promotional efforts undertaken by State governments, their level of adoption and spatial spread has remained low. Studies show that micro irrigation system helps save water, reduce cost of cultivation and improve crop yield. Various studies showed that the net return per inch of water supplied through drip irrigation was 60-80 per cent higher than that of conventional irrigation system. However, among others, high initial capital cost, suitability of designs to different soil conditions, problems in receiving subsidy and small holdings are reportedly affecting the adoption of this technology. Subsidy being an important factor influencing adoption decision of farmers, delay in disbursement and appropriation by better-off farmers seems to have affected the vast majority of resource-poor small and marginal farmers in accessing this technology.
The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana is a good policy initiative that would accelerate public investment in both micro and macro irrigation. During the recently organised India Water Week, 2016, India has also partnered with Israel, a water-scarce country, to learn and adopt innovative strategies to harness rainwater. Small vegetable-growing farmers near Solan, Himachal Pradesh, have long adopted Israel’s water-saving technology through the assistance of the Mother Dairy retail chain that procures their fresh produce. It is an opportune time to scale up technology adoption.
Finally, the shortage of drinking water can be addressed through promoting conservation and generating awareness among people to use the scarce resource with utmost care. Media reports indicate that the funds allocated by the Centre for drinking water projects have remained underutilised in many of the States hit by water scarcity. The States must act responsibly and gear up to come out of the current situation of water crisis.
Seema Bathla and Elumalai Kannan are Professor and Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development at JNU, New Delhi.

In Fact: Why sugarcane can’t be blamed for Marathwada drought woes

It is a convenient whipping boy, even though it consumes less water on a per-day basis than other crops, and even less for every unit weight of biomass produced.

April 15, 2016

Every crisis produces its fall guy. This time, it is sugarcane that’s bearing the brunt of the blame for drought, especially in Maharashtra’s worst-affected Marathwada region.
Sugarcane, no doubt, requires 2,100-2,200 mm of water, more than the 1,400 mm or so for paddy, 900 mm for cotton, 600 mm for jowar (sorghum) and arhar (pigeon-pea), 550 mm for wheat, and under 500 mm for soyabean and chana (chickpea).
But then, sugarcane typically grows over 365 days, as against the 180 days of cotton and arhar, 130 days of paddy and wheat, 110 days of jowar and chana, and 100 days of soyabean. Besides, even the best Punjab farmer can harvest only six tonnes of wheat and nine tonnes of paddy per hectare, whereas cane yields rarely go below 40 tonnes, while averaging 80 tonnes for Maharashtra.
Simply put, sugarcane consumes less water on a per-day basis, and even less for every unit weight of biomass produced.
Moreover, the sugarcane farmer doesn’t merely grow cane stalks. For every 80 tonnes of cane produced from a hectare, an additional 15-16 tonnes of green ‘tops’ also get harvested. These green top leaves — roughly 20 per cent over and above the millable cane weight — meet much of the fodder needs of his buffaloes and cattle during the crushing season from November to April. The water being used for cultivating sugarcane, thus, also goes towards production of fodder, which the farmer would otherwise have had to grow separately.
But water used for sugarcane cultivation is only one part. Equally important is the fact that the end-product, or the crop itself, is some 70% water. This water — 700 litres in one tonne — is what mills actually use for production of sugar and much more. Out of the 700 litres, about 250 litres is utilised in boilers for generating steam and power, while an equal quantity gets consumed in the sugar manufacturing process. It still leaves a balance of 200 litres, which, after cooling in spray ponds and primary treatment, can be re-used for irrigation and other purposes.
That makes sugar a unique industry, which doesn’t require water from outside, and even generates its own energy from bagasse — the fibrous residue remaining after extraction of juice from the cane. The high-pressure boilers in most mills today use water from the cane and burn the bagasse to produce electricity. Around 130 kilowatt-hours can be generated from every tonne of cane, of which the mills’ own in-process and auxiliary consumption requirement is only 35-36 units, with the remaining 94-95 units being exportable to the grid.






Bashers of sugarcane will tell us how it takes 2,000-odd litres of water to produce one kg of sugar. But they won’t say that this water is consumed over 12 months, or that it goes towards production of fodder, electricity and alcohol as well. And if one were to also add that the mills themselves consume no additional water or electricity — they are surplus in both — it would virtually give a lie to the perception of sugarcane being a water-guzzler.
Incidentally, even the sugar accumulation in the cane takes place only in last 90-100 days of ripening and maturation. The crop’s 365-day duration also covers germination (40-45 days), tillering (springing of stems from the parent shoot: 90-100 days) and grand growth (development of millable canes from tillers: 110-120 days). Much of the water consumption happens in the tillering and grand growth phases that precede sucrose accumulation. This only reinforces the fact that this is primarily a biomass-cum-energy crop, with sugar only one of its constituents.
But for all this nuanced understanding of a much-maligned yet misunderstood crop, one could still ask whether a region like Marathwada, receiving an average annual rainfall of slightly over 820 mm, should be growing cane at all. The answer, on the face of it, might be no, given that a water requirement of 2,000 mm-plus is too much for any crop in a traditionally drought-prone belt.
However, even the above statement needs qualification in the light of the fact that the total area under sugarcane in the eight districts of Marathwada has ranged between 2.2 and 2.4 lakh hectares (lh) annually; in 2015-16, it fell to less than 1.9 lh. The accompanying table shows this to be way below the corresponding acreages under cereals (mainly jowar, maize and bajra), cotton, pulses (arhar, urad, moong) or oilseeds (soyabean).
It is difficult to see how a crop accounting for just over 2 lh out of Marathwada’s estimated 70 lh gross cropped area be the cause for drought, as many NGOs and drawing room experts are claiming. The drought and the accompanying rural distress in the region is the result of the monsoon’s failure in three out of the last four years. Period.

All this is, of course, not to argue against efforts to promote water use efficiency in sugarcane. Replacement of flood irrigation methods with drip irrigation has been shown to bring about water savings of 40-50 per cent, while simultaneously boosting yields by up to a third. The latter is on account of the water being delivered directly to the plant’s root zone (where it is really required) and the remaining soil area getting enough air to maintain an optimum air-water-nutrient balance. With drip irrigation and judicious use of canal water, it should be possible for even Marathwada’s farmers to realise the enormous food, energy, and fodder potential offered by a most versatile crop.


Lessons from semi-arid regions on how to adapt to climate change
Tuesday 12 April 2016 


Building on local experience and having access to current and expected climate trends is crucial to adapting to climate change for farmers in semi-arid regions
Rising temperatures and more extreme, unpredictable climate events are making sustainable livelihoods tough for many people living in semi-arid regions of the world. To adapt, local communities, and especially farmers, use different strategies and responses.
Research in India and Africa shows that achieving sustained and equitable adaptation requires a number of things. It is critical to include a range of stakeholders to think about the problem together. It’s also important to have access to usable climate information that is considered alongside socioeconomic and governance issues. Finally, we must look at both the past and imagine possible different futures that reduce inequality and climate impacts.

How farmers are adapting

In northern Ghana farmers are increasingly suffering from delays in the onset of the annual rains. In an attempt to adapt, they are experimenting with different types of crop and water-storage systems.
In the Moyar Bhavani basin in India’s southernmost state of Tamil Nadu, unpredictable weather patterns mean that traditional rain calendars, used to decide sowing and harvesting times, are no longer accurate. And as water scarcity becomes a growing problem, farmers are turning to irrigation crops. These require expensive inputs and can push marginalised groups further into poverty and debt.
Water and pasture shortages in Kenya’s semi-arid regions, exacerbated by droughts, have driven pastoralist women into new types of livelihoods. These include petty trade in a number of products like milk, vegetables and beans, as well as small-scale agriculture. Men, on the other hand, pushed by conflicts with other groups over the use of land, often end up pursuing semi-legal activities such as the drugs or arms trades, according to our unpublished research.

Adapting to climate change

There are many ways of preparing for, and adapting to, changing climates. We suggest three important components:
  1. Building on local knowledge of climate vulnerability and responses: To start with, it helps to look at why farmers and pastoralists are vulnerable to climate impacts and what they are doing in response. Communities, households and individuals have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared about the practices and ways in which they respond. Adaptation initiatives that build on local knowledge and integrate scientific findings have a higher chance of leading to sustained and effective adaptation.
  2. Including climate information: Climate information that is tailored to users’ needs can help vulnerable farmers make better decisions. But this needs to be transparent, high quality and context specific, and must deal with current and expected climate trends and their impact. This kind of information is also needed by people who work with these vulnerable groups, such as extension officers, local and national governments, and NGO practitioners.
  3. Collaborative learning and decision-making: If planning and decisions allow for mutual learning between scientists, decision-makers and local communities, all groups gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the limits and uncertainties about climate information, and of the types of adaptation responses that might succeed. Co-production of knowledge also supports the use of climate information in the local context and cooperative development of possible solutions.
This approach would prompt the following types of questions to be asked:
  • What makes different groups of people vulnerable, not only to climate risks but to other socioeconomic factors? How serious are the risks and when will they occur? Are there hidden opportunities?
  • Will it be hotter or colder, wetter or drier? Will there be more extreme events? Will these changes further exacerbate the risks and vulnerabilities identified above?
  • What responses could be developed? Which are the most urgent, given the medium and high risks? For which groups of people? Are the proposed options robust in the face of uncertainty? Are they politically and socially acceptable, and/or financially feasible?
This approach has three advantages. It ensures users are engaged in assessing vulnerability and risk. It improves the understanding of where and how historical and future climate information plays a part. And it contributes to the understanding of how climate information feeds into adaptation options.

Engagement with farmers

In the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions project, participatory assessments have been carried out to identify the main hazards and issues affecting semi-arid communities. In these multi-stakeholder exercises, possible response strategies have been explored, from the local and regional level. In the process, people have felt empowered and able to play a role in adaptation.
In parallel, researchers are conducting analyses of climate trends and future projections across a number of areas in Africa and India. They are also increasing their understanding of the governance factors that enable or curtail adaptation actions, and their impact on different social groups.
In the second phase of the project, these and other findings will be used to develop scenarios of possible futures. In these, adaptation will take a range of different forms, from incremental to transformative. As part of this process, participants will develop possible adaptation strategies and responses, and will hopefully feel empowered to act.
The aim is to develop adaptation that is more equitable, widespread and sustained. This will be crucial to help mitigate the possibility of maladaptation and ensure that people’s vulnerability to climate change is decreased.

Resort to heritage

Archana Yadav    Friday 15 April 2016

Bangladesh is betting big on its traditional form of farming: floating gardens. Can it help climate-proof the country?
LAND IS an ephemeral presence here. In the low-lying wetlands of south-central Bangladesh surrounded by unstable rivers, vast swathes of land go under water for over four months every year. So people have learnt to make the most of flood water. During monsoon when their land is submerged, they gather water weeds like hyacinth or paddy stalks and pile them up in thick strips on stagnant water, beating them into compact shape by stamping their feet. On these rafts called dhap or baira they grow vegetable seedlings and spices. These floating farms are 10 times more productive than the traditional ones and the organic beds are rich in plant nutrients. When water recedes, they break the rafts and use them as compost to grow winter crops on land (see ‘How floating gardens are created’).

People have been making floating gardens in this tiny region of 25 square kilometres, covering parts of Gopalganj, Barisal and Pirojpur districts, for ages, some say for 300-400 years. Much like the floating gardens in Kashmir’s Dal lake or Myanmar’s Inle lake. Then, around the turn of the last century, came the big bang moment of floating garden in Bangladesh. In the past 15 years, several non-profits have taken it to all over the country. Haseeb Md Irfan-ullah, an aquatic ecologist and development practitioner, calls it a case of mass fascination. He has been involved in promoting floating farms for a decade.

The government of Bangladesh saw in this traditional practice a way to adapt to the changing climate that is likely to result in prolonged floods and water-logging in the country. In 2013, it approved US $1.6 million to take it up on a massive scale involving 12,000 families in eight districts.

While the government’s approach is commercial, involving big and mid-level farmers, NGOs have promoted floating farms to overcome starvation and poverty. They have involved landless people and marginal farmers. Like Rajeda Khatun of Hariabari village. She lives by the Gumani river in the Chalan Beel region, a large marshy depression north-west of Dhaka. She has a husband, two children and little land. “We used to work as labourers in other people’s houses. For a day’s work I would get 120 taka (Rs 100) but work was available for only five-six days in a month,” she says, sitting inside a duck coop the size of a storeroom floating on the Gumani in Pabna district.

The coop is part of a floating garden with a twist—it combines poultry and fishery with farming. Five families take care of this farm that functions round the year. “Now I spend two hours a day here, taking care of the ducks and fish,” Khatun says, wrapping a shawl tightly around her. Ano-ther woman wades through waist-high water to tend egg plants in blue pots and country beans hugging bamboo structures. “Together we make a profit of one lakh taka (Rs 85,800) in a year from this farm,” Khatun says. With a little extra income she could for the first time lease 20 decimal (800 sq m) land.



This floating farm is part of a pilot project launched by the Natore-based non-profit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha. In the past three years Shidhulai has built 45 such units on the Gumani, Atrai and Barnoi rivers. It plans to create another 400 units in the next three years.

International organisations IUCN and CARE have also trained about 2,000 families in floating farming in 10 districts since 2007. Another non-profit Practical Action has trained some 800 families displaced by river erosion and living on embankments along the Brahmaputra in the north-west of the country.

To understand the appeal of floating gardens one has to look at the topographical map of Bangladesh. It is a delta of large rivers descending from the Himalayas that are constantly shaping it like moving fingers in sand. Eighty per cent of the country is floodplains. And when the rivers swell in monsoons, they engulf large swathes of the country, at times two-thirds of it. Several parts of Bangladesh remain submerged for three to eight months, leaving millions of people with little land to grow food on.

Add to this the fact that Bangladesh is among the most densely populated countries and also among the most vulnerable to climate change as recognised by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. Scientists warn that the rising sea level will reduce the gradient of rivers, slowing down the drainage to the sea, thus, increasing the risk of floods and water-logging. They also predict that higher rainfall in the Ganga-Meghna-Brahmaputra river basins and greater glacier melt in the Himalayas may result in more devastating floods.

There is no getting away from water in this country and the pressure on land is going to be immense. Planners and development practitioners understand this very well. “In Bangladesh, 48 per cent of the people are landless and one-fifth of the country is under water. That’s why we thought floating garden is a good idea,” says Mohammed Rezwan, the founder of Shidhulai.

But introducing floating farm to a new area is easier said than done. Shidhulai went through rounds of trial and error for years to evolve a system that worked in Chalan Beel. “We tried using water hyacinth. It could not withstand heavy rains,” says Rezwan. “Then we switched to plastic pots filled with soil, ash and manure.” These floating farms are very different from the traditional ones. The entire unit floats on empty drums and a tightly knitted bamboo platform rather than an organic bed. Other NGOs have also experimented with the techniques, material and crops to adapt to new areas.

Down south where floating farming is traditionally done, raising vegetable seedlings on floating beds is a thriving business. People sell the seedlings to brokers or farmers who grow vegetables on a commercial scale for urban markets like Dhaka. In the north, there is hardly any market for seedlings as water stagnation is not that prolonged, says Irfanullah, a programme coordinator with IUCN. In newer areas farmers mostly grow vegetables for local consumption. Absence of organised agro-business probably explains why many farmers lose interest in floating gardens once the promoting agency withdraws. “I have seen in the north-west when a project is supporting the initiative people show interest but very few continue with their own money,” says Naz- mul Islam Chowdhury, head of the extreme poverty programme of Practical Action.



कृषि और किसानी

Maharashtra govt says mulling farmer insurance as opposition cites TOI’s suicide reports

The government of Maharashtra seems to think insurance can mitigate farm suicides? In the present context, it will mean higher premiums (which will be paid for by government with public money). And no insurance company anywhere pays out on a suicide, so the premiums will be forfeited.


MUMBAI: A series of reports in The Times of India on the drought in Maharashtra and the rise in farmer suicides triggered a strong response from the opposition, which raised the issue in both the state assembly and council.
Responding to the opposition's demands for more immediate action in the state's drought-hit areas, state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said the state was thinking of providing a life insurance scheme worth Rs 5 lakh for small farmers, with the state paying the instalments. "We are also planning to set up village-level committees to boost the morale of farmers and prevent suicides," Khadse told the council.
Waving copies of this newspaper in the assembly, senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Jayant Patil demanded action from the government. "Farmers suicides in the state are rising during the drought, but the state government has not even mentioned a line about this in the budget speech," Patil said.
On March 22, TOI had reported that farmers' suicides in the state had risen by 40% during the last seven months when the impact of the drought and unseasonal rains compounded the farm crisis.
Leader of opposition in the assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil also referred to TOI's reports. "The rise in suicides shows the government is not being sensitive to farmers. This government discussed suicides in its 'chai per charcha,' but what happened after that?" he asked.
In the Upper House, leader of opposition Dhananjay Munde raised the issue. He hails from Marathwada, which was the focus of TOIs's reports. "The report says the sharpest rise has been in Marathwada. Will the state announce a special package for Marathwada and Vidarbha?" he asked.
In its budget, the state government has already announced Rs 1,000 crore for the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan for water conservation schemes in drought-prone areas. It has announced Rs 171 crore to provide debt relief from money-lenders. The government has also disbursed relief worth Rs 4000 crore to drought-affected farmers. It has also said another package will be declared for those impacted by unseasonal rains by the end of the assembly session.
Khadse told the council that 17,526 farmers in the state had committed suicide in the last 14 years, of which 8,023 were eligible for compensation. "As of now, we cannot waive their loans but this will be discussed in the cabinet meeting," he said.

Study: Agri-corporates, not farmers, hog loans

The bulk of farm loans do not go to farmers. As high a share of 44 per cent of ‘agricultural loans’ in Maharashtra are disbursed from urban and metropolitan branches of scheduled commercial banks than rural branches, which supply almost 30%.
 

MUMBAI: At the RBI's 80th anniversary recently, PM Narendra Modi had invoked farmers' suicides to urge banks to lend more to cultivators. "When a farmer dies, does it shake the conscience of the banking sector? He faces death because he has taken loans from a moneylender," Modi said. Credit to the farm sector has risen across the country over the last decade. Yet, in Maharashtra, which reports the highest number of farmers' suicides in the country, the bulk of farm loans, ironically, does not go to farmers, says a new study based on the central bank's data.
Although the majority of farmers live in rural areas, a larger portion (44%) of agricultural loans are supplied by urban and metropolitan branches of scheduled commercial banks than rural branches, which supply almost 30%.
The study by economists R Ramakumar and Pallavi Chavan is based on data from the RBI's report, Basic Statistical Returns of Scheduled Commercial Banks in India, for 2013.
In effect, loans to farmers are not driving the rise in agricultural credit. Instead, the major beneficiaries in the revival of farm credit in this decade are agri-businesses and corporates involved in agriculture, the authors say. This is because the definition of agricultural credit has been expanded to include these businesses. "The definition now includes loans to corporate and agri-business institutions as well as storage equipment in cities. It also includes loans for commercial and export-oriented agriculture," says Ramakumar, an economist with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
The growth in agricultural credit has also been fuelled by a rise in indirect loans, the study says. Direct loans are given to farmers while indirect loans are given to institutions indirectly involved in agricultural production.
Significantly, the share of credit to small and marginal farmers has dropped dramatically across the country, the study shows. Instead, loans of Rs 1 crore and above are driving the revival of agricultural credit, the study says.
The share of direct agricultural loans worth less than Rs 25,000 to marginal farmers from scheduled commercial banks has fallen sharply-from almost 23% in 2005 to just 4.3% in 2013. On the other hand, the share of direct agricultural loans worth over Rs 1 crore has risen from 7.5% in 2005 to10% in 2013.
"The 1990s were the lost decade in rural banking. There was large-scale closure of commercial banks in rural areas," says Ramakumar. Since 2000, there has been a growth of agricultural credit, but a major part of this growth is illusory, he says. "It is driven by the expansion of funding to corporate and agri-business institutions involved in agriculture, high-value loans and credit from urban and metropolitan branches," he says.

Maharashtra crosses 60,000 farm suicides

At least ten farmers have killed themselves every day, on average, for a straight ten years in the rich state of Maharashtra. Nation-wide the farm suicides total nears the 300,000-mark, as the data of the National Crime Records Bureau show.
 
At least 3,146 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2013, the latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show. That brings the total number of farmers taking their own lives in the Western Indian state to 60,750 since 1995.  Maharashtra’s record finds no mention in the media.  The picture in the state got a lot worse after 2004. On average, 3,685 farmers in the state took their lives every year between 2004-13.
This means Maharashtra, barely three months away from assembly elections, is witnessing, on average, over ten farmers’ suicides every single day these past ten years in a row. That’s a lot worse than its already awful average of seven such deaths a day between 1995-2003.  A rise of 42 per cent in fact. (The NCRB began recording farm data in its annual Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India reports in  1995.)
A total of 2,96,438 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s 3,146 figure reflects a decline of 640 farm suicides as compared to the 2012. In fact all the Big 5 states in farm suicides have recorded declines in 2013 relative to the previous year. Andhra Pradesh claims a fall of  558, Chhattisgarh  4, Madhya Pradesh 82 and Karnataka 472.
So are fewer Indian farmers killing themselves today? The latest ADSI report of the NCRB would appear to suggest so. The nation-wide figure has fallen to 11,744 farm suicides, down 1,982 from 13,754 in 2012. (http://ncrb.gov.in/adsi2013/table-2.11.pdf ).

A very welcome decline  -  until you look at the numbers more closely. With a total of 7,653, the Big 5 still account for a full two-thirds of all farmers’ suicides in the country. No changes in the pattern there. And 15 other states recorded mostly mild increases. Of those, only Haryana records a significant increase of 98.
This great ‘fall’  also perpetuates a growing trend of states with otherwise high farm suicide numbers declaring  ‘zero’ or near zero suicides year after year. Chhattisgarh has done this three years in a row now since 2011: it has announced 0, 4 and 0 farmer suicides.  West Bengal also records zero in both 2012 and 2013.  What if we take a three-year average for these states before they started their zero-sum games? For Chhattisgarh that average was 1,567. For West Bengal 951.  That’s a total of  2,518. Add that to the 2013 total and it goes up 14,262. That’s even higher than the 2012 figure (when too, the same fudging was on).
Even accepting the 11,744 figure for 2013, that brings the national total since 1995 to 2,96,438 farmers’ suicides (NCRB ADSI reports 1995-2013) .
This is not to say that states cannot or have not seen any decline at all. (Also, one-off annual rises or falls are quite normal). Just that the nature of  that decline as recorded  in the past three years is highly suspect. So Chhattisgarh, a state that saw \over 14,000 farm- suicides from 2001-10, suddenly has none at all in the next three years. A model worth emulating? Other states surely think so. They’re getting in on the fraud, too.
Puducherry, for long the worst among union territories in farm suicides, has declared a zero figure in 2011,2012 and 2013. In 2010, it claimed a modest four. But in 2009, its figure was 154 farm suicides.
“Clearly, the massaging of the data continues”, says Prof. K. Nagaraj. an economist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.  Prof. Nagaraj’s 2008 study on farm suicides in India remains the most important one on the subject.. “When you want to play down very bad numbers  in one column, you can’t just erase them. You have to fit them into some other, catch-all category.  Shoving unwanted numbers into “Others”  is the common route to data massaging.”
And that’s exactly the trend in the data the states have been submitting to the NCRB. This year, too.
Here’s another thing that gives away the heavy massaging the data have been subject to at the state level.
On the same page as the NCRB table which records the “Self-employed (farming / agriculture)”  is another column: “Self-employed (Others).”  (http://ncrb.gov.in/adsi2013/table-2.11.pdf ).

As Chhattisgarh’s farm suicides numbers have dwindled to zero, its numbers of suicides in this “Self-employed (Others)” column has swollen.  In the years when Chhattisgarh  wasn’t  blanking out farm suicides numbers (e.g. 2008 and 2009), its figures in this “Others” column were, 826 and 851. In the last two years, when it reports zero farm suicides, these numbers soar to 1826 and 2077. Maharashtra, which claims a decline of 640 in farm suicides, records a rise of over 1,000 suicides under “Self-employed (Others).”Madhya Pradesh records a decline of 82 in farm suicide numbers, but a rise of 236 in this “Others” category.
Puducherry shows a similar trend. West Bengal solved that problem by simply not filing any data at all in 2012. So clearly, even if you can’t shove the numbers  under the carpet, you can dump some of them in “Others.”
Those prematurely celebrating a decline miss another point. There were 7.7 million fewer farmers in 2011 than there were in 2011, as the Census  data show us. Millions were and are either quitting the profession or losing full farmer status. In that period, the country, on average, saw 2,000 fewer farmers each day. So there were surely even fewer farmers in 2013. What do get if we view the suicide numbers against this shrinking farmer base?
As Prof. Nagaraj and researchers at the  M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) calculated last year from NCRB and Census data across a decade: “the adjusted farmers’ suicide rate for 2011 is in fact slightly higher than it was in 2001.” (http://psainath.org/farmers-suicide-rates-soar-above-the-rest/)  And that’s after heavy data fudging at the State level.

As their calculations showed: Suicide rates among Indian farmers were a chilling 47 per cent higher than they were for the rest of the population in 2011. In some of the States worst hit by the agrarian crisis, they were well over 100 per cent higher. In Maharashtra, farmers were killing themselves at a rate that was 162 per cent higher than that for any other Indians excluding farmers. A a farmer in this State is two-and-a-half times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else in the country, other than farmers.
Are the suicides occurring because of drought and crop failure?
Farmers have been killing themselves  in years when the crop has been excellent.  And in seasons when it has failed. They have taken their own lives in large numbers in very different years.  When it rains they lose out, when it doesn’t,  they lose out worse. There have been awful suicide numbers in some good monsoon years. And so too,  in years of drought, which can make things more terrible.
The suicides occurred overwhelmingly amongst cash crop farmers. Growers of cotton, sugar cane, groundnut, vanilla, coffee, pepper and others. Far fewer suicides occur amongst growers of paddy or wheat. Can we argue that drought kills cash crop farmers but not those cultivating food crops?
The monsoon does have a very real impact on agriculture. But it is by no means the main reason for the farm suicides. And with the bulk of those suicides occurring amongst cash crop farmers, the issues of debt, hyper-commercialization, exploding input costs, water-use patterns, and severe price shocks and price volatility, come much more to the fore. All factors majorly driven by state policies.
Against the background of these factors, you can be sure that if a drought really unfolds this year, they’re in very big trouble. And we will know very shortly. July is the main  month of the monsoon. It normally accounts for over 50 per cent of the rains, thus equalling the importance of the other three months of June, August and September combined.  Given the situation that seems to be building, I’d go slow on the celebrations.




State government's logic for its low farmer suicide count: Only 3 blamed rains

The Maharashtra government defends its “only-three-farmers” claim this way: only three of them wrote suicide notes blaming unseasonal rains.
 

MUMBAI:The Maharashtra government has a curious explanation for its bizarrely low count of 3 farmers' suicides on account of the unseasonal rains and hailstorms which have destroyed large swathes of crops.
While the state admits 601 farmers have killed themselves between January and March, apparently only three of them wrote suicide notes mentioning the rains and hailstorms as the reason.
"Only three farmers wrote suicide notes specifically saying they were killing themselves because of the rains and hailstorms. So when the Centre asked us for data on hailstorm-related suicides, we were only sure about this number," state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said.
Mr Khadse admitted that the TOI's recent report on 601 farmers' suicides between January and March was accurate. 'These are the state government's figures. But we cannot say for sure if the rest of the
cases were directly linked to unseasonal rains and hailstorms," Mr Khadse said.
Union Minister Radhamohan Singh mentioned the figure of 3 farmers suicides on account of the hailstorms in parliament on Monday, triggering protests from the Opposition.
Now the state government's explanation has triggered fresh outrage. "How many farmers will write suicide notes to begin with, let alone giving the hailstorms as a reason?" asked Kishor Tiwari from the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti. "The unseasonal rain has led to massive crop losses. When a farmer who has lost crops kills himself, it should be understood that the rains and hailstorms are the reason," he said.
The state government's data shows a rising number of farmer's suicides after the drought began last year. The recent spells of unseasonal rains have led to more distress. Of the 601 farmers suicides recorded by the state between January and March, only 241 have been found to be eligible for government compensation, the state's figures show. The state declared 114 cases ineligible. So far 193 cases have been compensated, the state's data shows.

‘Progressive’ farmer shows the way to success in parched Bundelkhand

In the parched, brown landscape of Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand region, where hundreds of distressed farmers have taken their lives in the past few decades or have been forced to migrate, Prem Singh’s farm is an exception.
In the fabulous green farm, there is plenty for everyone: abundance of water-bodies for animals to drink from, many fruit-bearing trees, a steady produce of organic products, healthy cattle, well-nourished soil and natural fertilizers and, importantly, a steady flow of income. The 32 bighas of land that Mr. Singh shares with his three brothers also boasts of a one-of-a-kind rural museum, the Humane Agrarian Centre. A farmer-activist based in Banda’s Badokhar Khurd village, Mr. Singh believes that his experiment with “sustainable and traditional farming” could be replicated at a larger level, and could pave the way for a policy change.
“The idea is to ensure the prosperity of the farmer’s family, ecological balance and food security of the country.”
He calls his pioneering method of sustainable farming ‘Aavartansheel Kheti.’ Loosely translated, as per a book he co-authored with Belgium environmentalist Johan D’hulster, it means ‘periodic proportionate farming.’
Key elements of this approach are crop rotation, organic farming, animal husbandry, food processing, planting and research for improving soil fertility and seed development. The essence is to minimise the farmers’ reliance on the market while improving their standard of living.
The farmer would have to utilise his farm by dividing it into three parts: one-third would be used for rearing fruits and crops, the other for growing timber and the remaining portion for animal husbandry. Mr. Singh’s multi-pronged technique, pioneered and implemented by him for over a decade, is similar to the idea of farming Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been propagating in his addresses to farmers.
The farmer, known in the area as “pragatisheel” or progressive, advises farmers to not directly trade their produce in the market but to sell the processed extracts. For instance, sell paneer but not milk, and so on. “That will link the farm to the kitchen. And also give the customers a better quality and nutritious product,” said Mr. Singh. Some of the popular products at his farm are amla pickle and candy, cow ghee, mustard oil, organic rice and flour (wheat, gram, and barley). Asked whether it was practical for small farmers, Mr. Singh said, “yes,” with certain adaptations and adjustments.
Born in 1964 into a farming background, Mr. Singh studied philosophy in Allahabad University but soon turned to his ancestral vocation. In 1995, he adopted a traditional method of farming, triggered by his dismay at the “negative impact” of the Green Revolution.
He says the Green Revolution and other policies played a big role in dismantling the traditional structure of farming and pushed the farmer to the mercy of unsustainable methods, which also harmed environment. Mr. Singh links it to the present crisis, where three consecutive droughts, with bouts of unseasonal rains and hailstorm, have devastated the morale of the Bundelkhand farmer.
“The outside knowhow of some experts was forced upon farmers. Till 1980, not a single bag of urea was purchased in Bundelkhand. But due to the government’s policies, farmers were forced to abort traditional and more sustainable methods, eventually leading them into debt-traps,” Mr. Singh said. “Every time a farmer commits suicide, the government says he was burdened by debt. What is the key reason for the debt? The farmers are dying because they follow the schemes of the government. This is the real injustice.”
Droughts are not new to Bundelkhand. As per records, in the last century it witnessed 17 major droughts, 10 of them caused by deficient rainfall. But the traditional water-recharging methods, numerous ponds, and natural harvesting techniques of people then mitigated the scarcity. The steps taken by the government in the last three decades have nullified the work of the ancestors, Mr. Singh said.
“The crops grown then did not require much water. With the Green Revolution, underground water began to be extracted heavily to sustain the thirst of the seeds. The local seeds were tested and adapted to fight drought. But the seeds introduced by the government needed excess water and urea to grow. Tractors further increased the costs,” Mr. Singh said.
At the centre of it all, said Mr. Singh, was the ruling class’ apathy towards farmers, manifested in their lack of representation in policy formation. The farming sector was bearing the brunt of their mistakes and excesses of the industrial and service sectors.

Parched earth, broken promises
May 2, 2016 The Hindu






Photo shows the people of Ukhanda village in Beed district waiting for a water tanker. Photo: Vivek Bendre, THE HINDU




Ground reports from Marathwada give the lie to the government’s claims that it is doing everything it can to address the drought situation
How would Janabai Korde or Prabhakar Bhumre have responded to the government’s claims made in the Rajya Sabha that the Centre was doing everything it could to address the grave drought situation in 257 districts across India? The two are residents of Beed and Jalna in Marathwada, the region comprising the eight districts worst hit by a three-year drought, and which has now reached epic proportions.
Janabai Korde is the sarpanch of a village in Beed. Our team met her when, as part of the Kisan Sabha campaign in the Marathwada region, we were interacting with workers at Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) worksites. With agricultural work at a standstill, the only lifeline here is MGNREGA. The Central government had declared that the provision of work under MGNREGA would be extended from 100 to 150 days in all drought-affected areas. But this has not happened. In 2015-2016, according to the Ministry website, in five of the districts — Aurangabad, Jalna, Nanded, Osmanabad and Hingoli — the average days of work in each of the districts was just 47 days or lower. In Latur it was 72 days, and in Beed, 81.
MGNREGA and a fund trickle

Even though lakhs of landless agricultural workers, cane cutters and marginal farmers are desperately looking for work, the number of individuals who actually got work under MGNREGA last year was just 70,000 people or fewer in each district. The only exception was in Beed, where 1.19 lakh individual workers got work. This month, when demand is at its peak, the average figure in each district is just 4,000. Officials tell you, off the record, that the main reason is the Central government’s refusal to release adequate funds. For the State as a whole, the funds from the Centre in 2015-2016 have been less, by Rs.212 crore, than what was spent in the pre-drought year of 2012-2013.
What is equally appalling is that even those who got work did not get wages. Beed district, with a comparatively better record of providing work, was the worst in terms of the disbursal of wages. Last year, the government owed workers Rs.5.58 crore in terms of wages in this district. At a worksite where we met Ms. Korde in her village of Takarwan, 150 workers had not been paid even a paisa since the project began a month-and-a-half ago. In the searing heat, with scarce drinking water, the women are expected to dig and carry 5,000 kg of mud in a single workday of eight hours. Can there be a more inhuman work norm than this? It is an impossible task. Officials admit that because of the drought, the soil has become hard and stony. But the schedule of rates — that is the work norms which determine the piece-rated wages — has not been changed. As a result, workers will get around 30 per cent less than the minimum wage, unless they extend the workday to 11 or 12 hours. Ms. Korde has been fighting on behalf of the workers. She has also raised the crucial issue of food security. Emergency measures to provide food grains through the Public Distribution System are urgently required, she says, but who is listening?
Landless and agricultural workers, the vast majority of whom are Dalit, are obviously the worst hit but the plight of farmers is no better.
Farmers in distress

Prabhakar Bhumre is a farmer from Jalna district. Like many others here, he was a fruit grower with 400 orange trees. He had taken a loan of Rs.2 lakh over two years. But in spite of the large amounts he paid to private companies for water to be supplied, he could not save his trees from drying up. Ultimately, he had to cut them down. His is not an isolated case. In the district, orange trees which were planted over 9,000 hectares — which is more than a third of the land where these trees have been planted — have had to be cut down. But there is little government help. Nor have the majority of fruit growers in the region received any compensation. On the contrary, banks are sending notices to farmers like Mr. Bhumre across Marathwada demanding repayment. The despair is palpable and 325 farmers have committed suicide in this region since January this year.
We had met Mr. Bhumre at a cattle sale in Pachod in Aurangabad district where he had sold two pairs of bullocks. Sitting in a group of distraught farmers, he was dejected and close to tears. He had sold the animals, bought for Rs.1 lakh a year or so ago, for just Rs.20,000. Another farmer, Salar Khan, had a similiar story. He had sold a pair of bullocks for half the price he had paid for them. In debt, for Rs.90,000, his daughters have had to drop out of school. After the ban on cow slaughter imposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, the price of these animals has plummeted throughout the State. In the Marathwada region, the situation is further accentuated by the high cost of maintenance. There were around 3,000 heads of cattle brought for sale to this fair — a distress sale is a last-ditch survival strategy. They had no alternative.
Short changed

The cattle shelters set up under a government scheme could have provided some relief. But the government outsourced them to a variety of registered cooperatives. In Beed district, where the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s two daughters fought and won the election, there are 137 such cow shelters, the highest in the region. One of the bigger shelters, in Kej, with 1,400 animals, is run by the Jai Bajrang Bali society which has not received funds since it started in March. According to the supervisor, the running cost is close to Rs.1 lakh a day.
How do they manage, we asked. Through more loans, he said. However, others said that many of these registered societies do not give out the actual amount of fodder that a farmer is entitled to. The government subsidy to be provided in kind, and fodder and water for the animals is set at the rate of Rs.70 for a large animal and Rs.31 for a small one. But, in a bizarre policy decision, the government cuts Rs.8 of the subsidy per animal against the price for the manure that the owner is presumed to get, from the sale of the manure. This has infuriated cattle owners. One asked, “Did a government officer measure the manure of my cow before he cut eight rupees?”
In most districts, the scheme for cattle shelters has not taken off. Clearly, it is the government that should run these shelters in greater numbers for a specified period and the Central government needs to provide assistance for this. No assurances were made in the parliamentary debate.
Water politics

While the
flagging off of a water train to Latur has had a blaze of publicity, the reality is that the 3,000 tankers provided in the region are woefully inadequate. There is no regulation of the price of water being charged by private companies. It is Rs.1,000 for a 3,000-litre tanker, double the amount it costs in Delhi. It is an open secret that many of these private water companies have close contacts with different political leaders of the area, which is the reason why no one dares touch them.
The priorities of the BJP-led State government lie elsewhere. On April 26, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court heard a petition asking for a reduction of water supply to breweries and distilleries. Aurangabad is an important centre for beer production and these units require more than five million litres of water a day. When the matter was raised in the Assembly, the Minister for Rural Development in the State, Pankaja Munde, refused the demand for cuts to these units. She was later accused of putting the interests of the company, of which she is a director and which runs a distillery, before those of the people. The court though directed the government to give priority to ensuring drinking water to the region.
The absence of any sense of urgency by government agencies is glaring. During the Lok Sabha and later the Assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a slew of promises to farmers and residents of Marathwada — from writing off loans, to ensuring crop compensation, to guaranteeing the supply of water and 24-hour supply of electricity. His party won six of the eight Lok Sabha seats and increased its tally of Assembly seats from two to 15 (out of 46) in a region known to be a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party base. But today, every one of those promises remains unfulfilled. Mr. Modi should spare a few days from his busy schedule of foreign tours to visit and study the situation here. That would help him understand why Janabai and Bhumre may consider his government’s claims, at least as far as short-term measures are concerned, to be a straight lie.
Brinda Karat is a member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau and a former Rajya Sabha MP.

New water purification system could help slake the world’s thirst
By Robert ServiceApr. 27, 2016 , 6:15 PM

Cheap aluminum foil dramatically boosts the ability of sunlight to desalinate water.
Lin Zhou et al, Nature Photonics




More than 1 billion people around the world lack access to fresh water, and the problem is growing: By 2025 a whopping two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. To slake that thirst, some wealthy communities have invested in water desalination plants that turn salt water into clean drinking water. But these plants are too expensive for most communities to afford. Now, researchers have come up with a solar-powered technique that could make small-scale desalination systems affordable, even for individual households.
The approach is a new take on an old technology known as a solar still. These stills—large containers covered by clear plastic tarps or glass enclosures—direct sunlight onto a basin of salty water. Water evaporates, leaving salts behind, and then condenses on the plastic or glass, where it is captured. The trouble is throughput. The sun evaporates water so slowly that very little fresh water is produced—too little for most people to even bother.
To fix the throughput problem, researchers have tried topping the salt water with floating films dotted with nano-sized metal particles, typically made from gold. Gold is a good absorber of sunlight, and the nanoparticles funnel the sun’s energy into tiny hotspots that then efficiently evaporate water. But gold, and other noble metals that work just as well, are expensive.
Now, researchers led by electrical engineer Jia Zhu at Nanjing University in China have fashioned a solar absorber to work with aluminum, one of the most abundant and cheapest metals on the planet. Normally, aluminum is good at absorbing only ultraviolet light, a small sliver of the solar spectrum. But Zhu’s team broadened this absorption in two steps. First, they perforated the foil with a regular array of holes, each 300 nanometers across. The array prevents light from reflecting off the surface and scatters it through the film, increasing the odds it will be absorbed. The researchers also misted the aluminum oxide foil with an extra dose of vaporized aluminum. The additional aluminum formed a thin layer on top. But in the pores, the aluminum atoms bunched up into tiny “islands” that increased the foil’s odds of absorbing sunlight.
The aluminum islands worked like gold particles, creating energy-funneling hotspots that boosted water evaporation at those sites. The approach worked so well that the researchers were able to purify salt water up to three times faster than without the foil, they report this week in Nature Photonics. Just one square meter of foil generated 2 to 8 liters of water per hour, depending on the amount of light hitting the still. Tests showed that the purified water contained only trace amounts of salt—orders of magnitude less than the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deem safe for drinking water.
The new setup isn’t likely to replace industrial filtration techniques any time soon. Those are already efficient on a large scale, generating up to 65 liters of water per hour for every square meter of membrane, says Benny Freeman, a chemical engineer and water desalination expert at the University of Texas at Austin. However, desalination plants currently require massive inputs of energy, usually from fossil fuels. That makes them unaffordable for many developing countries and households. So the new technique could offer a way for individuals to purify water for their own needs on the cheap. “There certainly is a lot of need for that,” Freeman says. “If you can provide clean water even at a small scale, it could be a game changer.”
That said, Freeman adds that the new approach to desalination still has a ways to go before proving itself in the real world. In their current experiment, the setup worked for 25 cycles of 1 hour each with little drop in performance. But to be useful in the real world, it will have to last for months or years. Researchers will also have to find ways to dispose of the extra salty brine that the evaporating water leaves. But with so many people in desperate need of fresh water, a new cheap source of purification is bright prospect.
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Co-operative farming

From the Archives — dated May 2, 1966  
Mr. C. Subramaniam, Food Minister, to-day [May 1, New Delhi] strongly defended co-operative farming and said that it could “be an element in the strategy of modernisation” of Indian agriculture. Inaugurating the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s seminar on co-operative farming for Asia and the Far East, the Food Minister said that co-operative farming recognised and protected the ownership rights of land-contributing members. He referred to fears expressed in some quarters that co-operative farming was a threat to peasant farming, or individual cultivation and said, “I would like to make it unmistakably clear that we lay the greatest emphasis on the principle that co-operative farming is a voluntary movement. There is, therefore, no question of compelling any cultivator to join a co-operative farming society.” Quoting Mr. Nehru, Mr. Subramaniam said the rationale of our co-operative farming was that “through co-operatives alone can the individual keep his individuality intact, his freedom intact and yet function in a big way and take advantage of science and technology.
Mr. Subramaniam said that the deliberations of the 15-day seminar, in which delegates from eight countries take part could be an extremely useful medium in pooling experience so that “if I have stumbled, others need not.” He said in the pioneering effort of co-operative farming India had tried to benefit from the experience of a number of countries which had tried co-operative farming as a tool for refashioning agriculture. Briefly touching upon various measures taken by India to step up agricultural production, the Food Minister said that no real break-through in economic development was possible without a sound agricultural base, for which an average linear rate of growth of at least 5 to 6 per cent a year seemed to be essential. In India, during 1949-50 to 1964-65 agricultural production had shown an average linear rate of growth of only 3.92 per cent a year with the average for the period 1949-50 to 1951-52 as the base.

Farmers reap a bountiful supply of tank-bed soil
Bidar,

Farmers in some villages in Bidar have a reason to smile in these days of gloom. They are getting a bountiful supply of tank-bed soil as the government has taken up tank cleaning and dredging work.
The district administration and the zilla panchayat are working over time to complete the work to clean and dredge around 650 waterbodies, including tanks and lakes, wells and temple kalyanis. Work on half of these waterbodies has started and the others have been cleaned.
Officers say that around 4 lakh cubic metres of soil have been removed from the tank-beds.
“Dredging will continue till the monsoon starts by the second week of June. The amount of soil removed till then will be twice this amount,” a senior officer said. “We allowed farmers to take this soil for free to their fields to be used as top soil. They are happy about it,” Anurag Tewari, Deputy Commissioner, said.
Hundreds of farmers have taken away soil from the work sites and carried it to nearby fields.
Flower growers with small land holdings have taken soil in carry bags and baskets in Sultanpur village. It shows how much they value this soil, he said. “In a sense, the drought has given us an opportunity to clean the waterbodies. This will benefit the district in the long run when more water can be impounded, and by providing rich soil to farmers reducing the need for nutritional inputs,” he said. “The soil deposited on tank-beds helps farming as it is rich in nutrients,” says soil scientist from the College of Horticulture Praveen Kumar Naikodi.
The first 25 centimetres of soil so extracted is the richest part of the soil profile. It is washed away after rain and gets collected on the tank bed. Impounding water for decades makes the soil rich in nutrients as it has decaying organic matter such as dead fish and aquatic plants.
“As many as three of the five taluks in Bidar have red laterite soil, which is less fertile compared with tank-bed soil, and covering red soil fields with it will help farmers considerably. It will also help improve the water holding capacity of the waterbodies,” he said.
The district administration is working through the Nirmiti Kendra, and the district urban development cell. Bidar-based non-governmental organisation, Team Yuva, is monitoring the work.
NGOs, including Reliance Foundation, and the corporate social responsibility arm of the construction company, Larsen and Toubro, are also excavating and cleaning some waterbodies in some villages.
The government has taken up tank cleaning and dredging works in Bidar



Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now

Frances Moore Lappé
April 2016 

The primary obstacle to sustainable food security is an economic model and thought system, embodied in industrial agriculture, that views life in disassociated parts, obscuring the destructive impact this approach has on humans, natural resources, and the environment. Industrial agriculture is characterized by waste, pollution, and inefficiency, and is a significant contributor to climate change. Within so-called free market economics, enterprise is driven by the central goal of bringing the highest return to existing wealth. This logic leads inexorably to the concentration of wealth and power, making hunger and ecosystem disruption inevitable. The industrial system does not and cannot meet our food needs. An alternative, relational approach—agroecology—is emerging and has already shown promising success on the ground. By dispersing power and building on farmers’ own knowledge, it offers a viable path to healthy, accessible food; environmental protection; and enhanced human dignity.
People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.
Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways. Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce. Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy.
Today, the world produces—mostly from low-input, smallholder farms—more than enough food: 2,900 calories, amounting to three to four pounds of food, per person per day. Per capita food availability has continued to expand despite ongoing population growth. This ample supply of food, moreover, comprises only what is left over after about half of all grain is either fed to livestock or used for industrial purposes, such as agrofuels.
Despite this abundance, 800 million people worldwide suffer from long-term caloric deficiencies. One in four children under five is deemed stunted—a condition, often bringing lifelong health challenges, that results from poor nutrition and an inability to absorb nutrients. Two billion people are deficient in at least one nutrient essential for health, with iron deficiency alone implicated in one in five maternal deaths.
The total supply of food alone actually says little about whether the world’s people are able to meet their nutritional needs. We need to ask why the industrial model leaves so many behind, and then determine what questions we should be asking to lead us toward solutions to the global food crisis.


The industrial model of agriculture—defined here by its capital intensity and dependence on purchased inputs of seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides—creates multiple unappreciated sources of inefficiency. Economic forces are a major contributor here: the industrial model operates within what are commonly called “free market economies,” in which enterprise is driven by one central goal, namely, securing the highest immediate return to existing wealth. This leads inevitably to a greater concentration of wealth and, in turn, to greater concentration of the capacity to control market demand within the food system. The result? Demand by the better-off minority shifts production toward grain-fed animal foods, greatly diminishing the overall food supply because of the poor conversion rate of feed to food. The most extreme example is the feeding of grain to cattle. Of the calories in the feed that cattle consume, humans receive just 3 percent through beef. US agriculture, in large part because of its livestock focus, actually feeds fewer people per acre than that of India or China.
This imbalance is exacerbated by other systemic inefficiencies within the industrial model. Of the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer added to the soil globally, at least half is never taken up by plants, but is instead washed or blown away. Moreover, economically and geographically concentrated production, requiring lengthy supply chains and involving the corporate culling of cosmetically blemished foods, leads to massive outright waste: more than 40 percent of food grown for human consumption in the United States never makes it into the mouths of its population.


The underlying reason industrial agriculture cannot meet humanity’s food needs is that its system logic is one of disassociated parts, not interacting elements. It is thus unable to register its own self-destructive impacts on nature’s regenerative processes. Industrial agriculture, therefore, is a dead end.
Consider the current use of water in agriculture. About 40 percent of the world’s food depends on irrigation, which draws largely from stores of underground water, called aquifers, which make up 30 percent of the world’s freshwater. Unfortunately, groundwater is being rapidly depleted worldwide. In the United States, the Ogallala Aquifer—one of the world’s largest underground bodies of water—spans eight states in the High Plains and supplies almost one third of the groundwater used for irrigation in the entire country. Scientists warn that within the next thirty years, over one-third of the southern High Plains region will be unable to support irrigation. If today’s trends continue, about 70 percent of the Ogallala groundwater in the state of Kansas could be depleted by the year 2060.
Large amounts of groundwater and river flows are also drawn into highly inefficient livestock production. More than half of the water use in the Colorado River basin, spanning six states, is devoted to feeding cattle and horses. In drought-stricken California, nearly a fifth of irrigation water goes to one feed crop: alfalfa. Every year, 100 billion gallons of California water in the form of alfalfa go to China for meat production.
Beyond water waste and rapid depletion of groundwater—which recharges slowly and thus, in practical terms, is nonrenewable—nutrient application via synthetic fertilizer in the industrial model is not only inefficient, but also highly destructive. Nitrogen runoff ends up in waterways, where it is destroying marine life, creating over 400 aquatic “dead zones” worldwide. Some scientists are now warning that we have disrupted the nitrogen cycle even more radically than the carbon cycle.7
Industrial agriculture also depends on massive phosphorus fertilizer application—another dead end on the horizon. Almost 75 percent of the world’s reserve of phosphate rock, mined to supply industrial agriculture, is in a politically unstable area of northern Africa centered in Morocco and Western Sahara. Since the mid-twentieth century, humanity has extracted this “fossil” resource, processed it using climate-harming fossil fuels, spread four times more of it on the soil than occurs naturally, and then failed to recycle the excess. As with nitrogen, much of this phosphate escapes from farm fields, ending up in ocean sediment where it remains unavailable to humans. Within this century, the industrial trajectory will lead to “peak phosphorus”—the point at which extraction costs are so high, and prices out of reach for so many farmers, that global phosphorus production begins to decline.
Beyond depletion of specific nutrients, the loss of soil itself is another looming crisis for agriculture. Worldwide, soil is eroding at a rate ten to forty times faster than it is being formed. To put this in visual terms, each year, enough soil is washed and blown from fields globally to fill roughly four pickup trucks for every human being on earth.


The industrial model of farming is not a viable path to meeting humanity’s food needs for yet another reason: it contributes nearly 20 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, even more than the transportation sector. The most significant emissions from agriculture are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide is released in deforestation and subsequent burning, mostly in order to grow feed, as well as from decaying plants. Methane is released by ruminant livestock, mainly via their flatulence and belching, as well as by manure and in rice paddy cultivation. Nitrous oxide is released largely by manure and manufactured fertilizers. Although carbon dioxide receives most of the attention, methane and nitrous oxide are also serious. Over a hundred-year period, methane is, molecule for molecule, 34 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas, and nitrous oxide about 300 times, than carbon dioxide.
Our food system also increasingly involves transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, storage, wholesale and retail operations, and waste management—all of which emit greenhouses gases. Accounting for these impacts, the total food system’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, from land to landfill, could be as high as 29 percent. Most startlingly, emissions from food and agriculture are growing so fast that, if they continue to increase at the current rate, they alone could use up the safe budget for all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Livestock production is the primary contributor to climate change from the food system. It is not possible to pin down precisely how much of agriculture’s contribution to the climate crisis stems from industrial versus traditional farming; however, because livestock lie at the heart of the industrial model, and the manufacture and distribution of synthetic inputs require fossil fuels, it is clear that industrial agriculture dominates the sector’s contribution to climate change. Driven by the narrowly focused pressure to bring the highest return to ever-larger farm operations, corporate suppliers, and food processors, the industrial system disrupts nature’s regenerative capacities, leading to the rapid depletion and destabilization of the complex systems that we need in order to grow food.


These dire drawbacks are mere symptoms. They flow from the internal logic of the model itself. The reason that industrial agriculture cannot meet the world’s needs is that the structural forces driving it are misaligned with nature, including human nature.
Social history offers clear evidence that concentrated power tends to elicit the worst in human behavior. Whether for bullies in the playground, autocrats in government, or human subjects in psychological studies such as the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, concentrated power is associated with callousness and even brutality not in a few of us, but in most of us. The system logic of industrial agriculture, which concentrates social power, is thus itself a huge risk for human well-being. At every stage, the big become bigger, and farmers become ever-more dependent on ever-fewer suppliers, losing power and the ability to direct their own lives.
The seed market, for example, has moved from a competitive arena of small, family-owned firms to an oligopoly in which just three companies—Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta—control over half of the global proprietary seed market. Worldwide, from 1996 to 2008, a handful of corporations absorbed more than two hundred smaller independent companies, driving the price of seeds and other inputs higher to the point where their costs for poor farmers in southern India now make up almost half of production costs. And the cost in real terms per acre for users of bio-engineered crops dominated by one corporation, Monsanto, tripled between 1996 and 2013.
Not only does the industrial model direct resources into inefficient and destructive uses, but it also feeds the very root of hunger itself: the concentration of social power. This results in the sad irony that small-scale farmers—those with fewer than five acres—control 84 percent of the world’s farms and produce most of the food by value, yet control just 12 percent of the farmland and make up the majority of the world’s hungry.
With its assumption of disassociated parts, the industrial model also fails to address the relationship between food production and human nutrition. Driven to seek the highest possible immediate financial returns, farmers and agricultural companies are increasingly moving toward monocultures of low-nutrition crops such as corn—the dominant US crop—that are often processed into empty-calorie “food products.” As a result, from 1990 to 2010, growth in unhealthy eating patterns outpaced dietary improvements in most parts of the world, including the poorer regions. Most of the key causes of non-communicable diseases are now diet-related, and by 2020, such diseases are predicted to account for nearly 75 percent of all deaths worldwide.


What model of farming can end nutritional deprivation while restoring and conserving food-growing resources for our progeny? The answer lies in the emergent model of agroecology, often called “organic” or ecological agriculture. Hearing these terms, many people imagine simply a set of farming practices that forgo purchased inputs, relying instead on beneficial biological interactions among plants, microbes, and other organisms. However, agroecology is much more than that. The term as it is used here suggests a model of farming based on the assumption that within any dimension of life, the organization of relationships within the whole system determines the outcomes. The model reflects a shift from a disassociated to a relational way of thinking arising across many fields within both the physical and social sciences. This approach to farming is coming to life in the ever-growing numbers of farmers and agricultural scientists worldwide who reject the narrow productivist view embodied in the industrial model as they create highly effective relational approaches.
Recent studies have dispelled the fear that an ecological alternative to the industrial model would fail to produce the volume of food for which the industrial model is prized. In 2006, a seminal study in the Global South compared yields in 198 projects in 55 countries and found that ecologically attuned farming increased crop yields by an average of almost 80 percent. A 2007 University of Michigan global study concluded that organic farming could support the current human population, and expected increases without expanding farmed land. Then, in 2009, came a striking endorsement of ecological farming by fifty-nine governments and agencies, including the World Bank, in a report painstakingly prepared over four years by four hundred scientists urging support for “biological substitutes for industrial chemicals or fossil fuels.” Such findings should ease concerns that ecologically aligned farming cannot produce sufficient food, especially given its potential productivity in the Global South, where such farming practices are most common.

Ecological agriculture, unlike the industrial model, does not inherently concentrate power. Instead, as an evolving practice of growing food within communities, it disperses and creates power, and can enhance the dignity, knowledge, and the capacities of all involved. Agroecology can thereby address the powerlessness that lies at the root of hunger.
Applying such a systems approach to farming unites ecological science with time-tested traditional wisdom rooted in farmers’ ongoing experiences. Agroecology also includes a social and politically engaged movement of farmers, growing from and rooted in distinct cultures worldwide. As such, it cannot be reduced to a specific formula, but rather represents a range of integrated practices, adapted and developed in response to each farm’s specific ecological niche. It weaves together traditional knowledge and ongoing scientific breakthroughs based on the integrative science of ecology. By progressively eliminating all or most chemical fertilizers and pesticides, agroecological farmers free themselves—and, therefore, all of us—from reliance on climate-disrupting, finite fossil fuels, as well as from other purchased inputs that pose environmental and health hazards.
Organic farming, commonly understood as farming with no synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, is a key dimension of agroecology. Globally, organically farmed land more than doubled in the decade before 2011, and in India, it grew almost eightfold. Two million farmers—most of whom are small farmers in the Global South—are now certified organic, while many more use organic practices. Worldwide, officially recognized organic farmland still makes up only about 1 percent of the total; however, it is widely appreciated that many farmers using organic practices are too poor to afford the certification process.
In another positive social ripple, agroecology is especially beneficial to women farmers. In many areas, particularly in Africa, nearly half or more of farmers are women, but too often they lack access to credit. Agroecology—which eliminates the need for credit to buy synthetic inputs—can make a significant difference for them.
Agroecological practices also enhance local economies as profits on farmers’ purchases no longer seep away to corporate centers elsewhere. After switching to practices that do not rely on purchased chemical inputs, farmers in the Global South commonly make natural pesticides using local ingredients—mixtures of neem tree extract, chili, and garlic in southern India, for example. Local farmers purchase women’s homemade alternatives and keep the money circulating within their community, benefiting all.
Besides these quantifiable gains, farmers’ confidence and dignity are also enhanced through agroecology. Its practices rely on farmers’ judgments based on their expanding knowledge of their land and its potential. Success depends on farmers’ solving their own problems, not on following instructions from commercial fertilizer, pesticide, and seed companies. Developing better farming methods via continual learning, farmers also discover the value of collaborative working relationships. Freed from dependency on purchased inputs, they are more apt to turn to neighbors—sharing seed varieties and experiences of what works and what does not for practices like composting or natural pest control. These relationships encourage further experimentation for ongoing improvement. Sometimes, they foster collaboration beyond the fields as well—such as in launching marketing and processing cooperatives that keep more of the financial returns in the hands of farmers.
Going beyond such localized collaboration, agroecological farmers are also building a global movement. La Via Campesina, whose member organizations represent 200 million farmers, fights for “food sovereignty,” which its participants define as the “right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods.” This approach puts those who produce, distribute, and consume food—rather than markets and corporations—at the heart of food systems and policies, and defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.

Case studies in some of the world’s hungriest regions can illuminate the potential of agroecology to meet global needs. The experience of Tigray, Ethiopia, an extremely cash-poor region of almost five million people with degraded soils and poor crop yields, offers one promising example. In part because of the region’s low rainfall, the “hunger season” for the poorest farmers has typically lasted more than half the year, and climate change has intensified such hardships. In 1996, national and regional agencies took action. Working with the Institute for Sustainable Development, they launched a transformational strategy with the goal of restoring soil fertility as well as developing community-environmental governance.
The Tigray Project worked with farmers to infuse a few basic agroecological practices, like composting, into their work. Unlike chemical fertilizers, which require application every year, good compost can increase and maintain soil fertility for up to four years. Thanks to healthier soil, farmers began achieving higher yields, with fewer challenging weeds, and their crops became more resistant to disease and pests. Stopping the uncontrolled grazing of livestock allowed for the revegetation of degraded lands, including steep slopes and gullies not suitable for agricultural production. This previously “useless” land now provides biomass for livestock feed or compost, thereby returning nutrients to the soil. In just five years, from 2000 to 2005, farmers doubled yields of cereals grown on compost-treated soil. The project incorporated other innovations as well, such as the creation of small trenches along the bunds (low earthen ridges) between fields to catch rain and soil runoff, and tree planting and the nurturing of tree regrowth.
The project clarifies the social dimension of addressing hunger. From its beginning, villagers have assumed leadership via local associations with elected representatives. The associations create and enforce community by-laws, and, through these associations, villagers make a series of public commitments on issues like water conservation. Some commitments are very specific, such as how many acres of land a person commits to plant with trees and the number of days of service he or she will contribute labor to soil and water conservation projects that benefit everyone.
Using these practices, Tigray farmers now produce enough food to maintain a full year’s reserve, and their farms’ greater crop diversity enhances resiliency. By 2008, 86 percent of the nearly seven hundred thousand farmers in the region were using natural fertilizer on nearly half a million acres. Chemical fertilizer use fell 40 percent by weight between 1998 and 2005, while grain production climbed more than 80 percent. Some farmers even produce a surplus that they can sell, raising their incomes more than tenfold, to roughly $700 a year. The ripples from this project have continued, as the Ethiopian government is spreading many of the Tigray-tested ecological practices, which have reached about a quarter of the country’s rural districts so far. Tigray’s positive experience is reflected in the results of many similar initiatives throughout the world.

Despite the many strengths of the ecological farming model, objections still arise. Many who discount agroecology as a scalable solution note that in the Global North, it now contributes a very small share of total production. Moreover, in the Global South, small farms lack the knowledge and decision-making power to convert to successful ecological methods. Of course, these concerns refer not to shortcomings of the model itself, but instead raise questions about whether humanity can make the political choices necessary for the shift of direction essential to embrace it. The answer will depend largely on how widely and deeply people appreciate the failure of the industrial model and the availability of a viable alternative. Disseminating information such as that reported here is therefore vital to fostering broad-based understanding and popular mobilization for change.
Once citizens come to appreciate that the industrial agriculture model is a dead end, the challenge becomes strengthening democratic accountability in order to shift public resources away from it. Today, those subsidies are huge: by one estimate, almost half a trillion tax dollars in OECD countries, plus Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa, and Ukraine. Imagine the transformative impact if a significant share of those subsidies began helping farmers’ transition to agroecological farming.

Making Nutrient Cycling Practical
Even those aware of the evidence of agroecology’s already proven yields, as well as projections about its potential, suggest that the soil nutrient cycling required to replace synthetic fertilizers on a grand scale is impractical in an increasingly urbanized world. But agroecology’s core principle of aligning with nature’s regenerative processes is the direction all human systems must take if humanity is to thrive, or even survive. As resources are shifted toward regenerative farming practices, we will no doubt learn ever-better ways to cycle soil nutrients.
The shift is already beginning. In 2012, the European Union called on members to reuse virtually 100 percent of phosphorus by 2020, and Sweden already requires 40 percent of phosphorus in sewage to be recycled back into the soil. However, in the United States, cycling nutrients through what are called “biosolids”—fertilizers produced from treated solid waste separated from municipal sewage—has attracted many critics who note the difficulty of removing heavy metals and other contaminants from sewage sludge, which includes waste from industrial sources, and safely applying it to fields.
Solutions, however, are emerging. One promising example is a process called “nutrient recovery.” Since most of the nitrogen and phosphorus is in wastewater, this technique focuses there, extracting only these nutrients, not the toxics. In a process called “struvite precipitation,” phosphorus crystallizes with other elements and is withdrawn from the wastewater to become fertilizer. In this crystalline form, the phosphorus is virtually insoluble in water and therefore does not leach into waterways. Plants can activate the phosphorus as they grow, but only when they need it, helping to reduce the current vast waste of phosphorus.
The part of the human waste stream richest in both nitrogen and phosphorus is, in fact, urine. Urine is essentially sterile, and for centuries, humans have found simple ways to return it, with these key nutrients, to the soil. Today, it remains a largely untapped source of plant nutrition, although deriving fertilizer from urine is catching on in countries like the Netherlands. In 2014, Amsterdam’s public water utility invited male residents to use urinals specially designed to collect urine to fertilize rooftop gardens, playfully calling it “peecycling.” In West Africa, seven hundred families in eight Niger villages are cycling all the nutrients in their own waste back to their fields using waterless toilets and simple urinals—low-energy and low-cost—and enjoying yields equal to or better than those obtained with chemical fertilizers.
A big factor in making nutrient cycling practical is reducing the distance between where food is grown and where it is consumed. Because three-quarters of food is still eaten in the country in which it is grown, and because most countries are not as vast as the United States, this reconnection may be less daunting than it seems. Many governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have specific policies to promote urban and periurban farming. In Cuba, 40 percent of households grow some of their own food; in Guatemala and Saint Lucia, 20 percent do. Cuba also helps farmers move soil nutrient sources, such as compost, to where they are needed. Agroecological urban farming in Cuba, in turn, helped to lift the country’s average caloric availability from less than 2,000 calories per capita per day in the 1990s to more than 3,000 by 2005
If humanity can master space travel and decode the genome, surely we can grasp the laws of biology and tackle the logistical challenges of nutrient cycling. Worldwide, less than 1 percent of agricultural research focuses on advancing the knowledge and practice of organic farming. If we shifted course, the potential for agroecological farming could be realized on a global scale.

Reversing the Pressure to Leave Farming
Skeptics of agroecology doubt that sufficient human labor could be mobilized to supply what would be required to take it to scale. Even if they had the opportunity, these skeptics say, too few people would actually choose to remain in such arduous work in rural environments with fewer amenities than cities offer.
Evidence, however, suggests otherwise. True, urban centers are swelling, and half of us now live in cities. But is the force behind this shift a pull to attractive urban life or largely a push by unfair returns to farmers, as well as by land hoarders and grabbers who are effectively evicting agrarian populations?
Today, more than a third of humanity depends directly on agriculture for their livelihood, and many want to remain where they are because of deep cultural and family roots—as long as they can also enjoy the rewards. In fact, many rural people want to stay on their farms so much that they risk their lives resisting land grabs by foreign interests. The colonial seizures of land in the nineteenth century continued into the twentieth. And today, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and South Korea, among others, are buying up or leasing vast tracts to provide food—not for local people, but for their own consumers—and produce crops for fuel. Land grabs in Africa since 2000 alone total an area as large as Kenya.
Such pressure is, of course, only one reason for migration to cities. More widespread is simply the inability to earn enough from farming, along with such hardships as lack of public investment in rural market roads, schools, clinics, and agricultural extension. The disadvantages of rural life result from choices made by elite-controlled governments, unrelated to the inherent potential appeal of rural life. Relatively small investments and improvements, however, may be able to turn the tide. In the central plateau of Burkina Faso in West Africa, outmigration stopped when life in the villages was improved through water and soil conservation practices along with the integration of trees and crops. One village, which had lost a quarter of its population in the ten years before the new practices began, did not lose a single family once ecological farming increased crop yields and led to improved food security.
Finally, any accurate appraisal of the viability of a more ecologically attuned agriculture must also let go of the idea that the food system is already so globalized and corporate-dominated that it is too late to scale up a relational, power-dispersing model of farming. As noted earlier, more than three-quarters of all food grown does not cross borders. Instead, in the Global South, the number of small farms is growing, and small farmers produce 80 percent of what is consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

When we address the question of how to feed the world, we need to think relationally—linking current modes of production with our future capacities to produce, and linking farm output with the ability of all people to meet their need to have nutritious food and to live in dignity. Agroecology, understood as a set of farming practices aligned with nature and embedded in more balanced power relationships, from the village level upward, is thus superior to the industrial model. This emergent relational model offers the promise of an ample supply of nutritious food needed now and in the future, and more equitable access to it.
Reframing concerns about inadequate supply is only the first step toward necessary change. The essential questions about whether humanity can feed itself well are social—or, more precisely, political. Can we remake our understanding and practice of democracy so that citizens realize and assume their capacity for self-governance, beginning with the removal of the influence of concentrated wealth on our political systems?
Democratic governance—accountable to citizens, not to private wealth—makes possible the necessary public debate and rule-making to re-embed market mechanisms within democratic values and sound science. Only with this foundation can societies explore how best to protect food-producing resources—soil, nutrients, water—that the industrial model is now destroying. Only then can societies decide how nutritious food, distributed largely as a market commodity, can also be protected as a basic human right.


Ashish Kothari ; April 2016 

Lappé’s essay is lucid, timely, and exciting for its attempt at connecting so many dots rather than being only a “technical” paper which proponents of “organic farming” can at times restrict themselves to. The stress on the social and political is especially welcome. The important question then becomes “how,” and I would like to share what I think will be vital steps:
(a) Advocacy for women’s rights to farming land and other resources. In many parts of the world, these are not well-established, and the male domination of agriculture (especially in its links to the state and the market) is part of the problem. More generally, recognizing the crucial role of women in agriculture is part of the struggle.
(b) Advocacy for community tenure, not only to agricultural lands, but also to other resources that agriculture is intimately connected to, including non-agricultural commons (grazing lands, forests, wetlands, etc). Sustainability of farming, as well as economic/social security for farmers, is crucially dependent on long-term tenure.
(c) Connected to the above, taking a more holistic view of agriculture by linking (or, where it existed in the past, relinking) with fisheries, animal husbandry, forestry, and crafts/agro-based manufacturing. This is crucial not only because of the ecological connections amongst ecosystems and nature, and the nutrients and other inputs that non-farming ecosystems provide to farming, but also because of the fact that agriculture alone will not be able to provide a full livelihood and employment security. An integrated approach with all these built in, however, could. Several villages in India, similar to the example that Lappé provides, have stopped or reversed outmigration using such an approach. Besides, capitalism and state-dominated systems have excelled at creating divisions between farmers, fishers, pastoralists, indigenous people, craftspersons, and other “ecosystem people,” so a successful transition requires their reconnection and mutual strengthening, albeit in different circumstances than the past.
(d) Localization of agricultural cycles. This could also be successful if government or civil society programs linked to procurement and redistribution of food, such as India’s Public Distribution System (PDS), are localized. An example from southern India (Deccan Development Society) has shown the potential for this by starting a parallel PDS using locally grown, organic millets. The same could be for public programs on food for work, free food for schools in poor communities, etc.
(e) Linking not only producers and consumers (which Lappé mentions) but also investors (as far as possible local), with the latter also receiving their “interest” back in the form of agricultural produce (thereby also building a bit more of a non-monetized exchange process). The initiative Just Change in southern India is attempting this; some CSA models in Europe or North America offer a similar approach.
The focus on self-governance (or what I could call “radical democracy”) that Lappé points to towards the end of the essay is the crux of not only a sane agricultural future, but also of a sane future in general—linked, of course, to economic democracy, social justice, cultural diversity, and ecological wisdom and resilience. Applying these fundamental pillars or principles would also help us, I think, to sift the “green economy” kind of tinkering around within a capitalist or state-dominated system (in which “organic farming” is being pushed by big corporates) from a truly revolutionary transformation. Lappé's vision is certainly an important part of this.


His farm has plenty of water, many trees bearing fruit and a steady produce of organic products
Source: The Hindu;





जल दर्शन

Conservation: Lessons from ancient India

As drought-like conditions have gripped many parts of India this year, the pressure to drill borewells in search of increasingly scarce groundwater has escalated. Many regions are in the grip of a vicious cycle of drilling causing the water table to sink further. There is an urgent need to explore what benefits water conservation can bring, whether through modern or ancient water storage structures. As the report below, the concluding part of the six-part series, explains, ecologically safe engineering marvels of water conservation have existed in India for nearly 1,500 years, including traditional systems of water harvesting, such as the bawari, jhalara, nadi, tanka, and khadin. Even today these systems remain viable and cost-effective alternatives to rejuvenate depleted groundwater aquifers, according to experts. With government support, these structures could be upgraded and productively combined with modern rainwater-saving techniques such as anicuts, percolation tanks, injection wells and subsurface barriers. This may be a far more sustainable approach to alleviating the water scarcity crisis across India. Ultimately, water conservation has to be a key element of any strategy to bring an end to India’s perennial swings between drought and flood. 






HARVESTING HISTORY: Agrasen ki Baoli in Delhi, built-in pre-Lodhi era (14th century) by Raja Agrasen, to collect rainwater during the monsoon. File photo: V.V.Krishnan
It’s half past four on a sweltering afternoon in Jodhpur. At the end of a narrow lane in the walled city a metal gate seems to close off a dilapidated monument. Walk through it though, and a series of steps leads you into a well the size of a large swimming pool. There are arches above the well at regular intervals and it’s easy to sense, from the surrounding air, that the water runs cold. A group of young men are splashing about inside, occasionally emerging with handfuls of dirt or stray pieces of garbage that they place at the top of the steps. They have been working for days and through their efforts, the water inside seems clean, almost luminescent.
Satayanarayanji ka bawari, the small stepwell named after the temple next to it, is one of hundreds of similar structures, all part of an ancient network of water storage that the city of Jodhpur was once famous for, but now lie neglected. On this afternoon, the young men from the colony around the stepwell are participating in an initiative started by a local environmental activist, Rajesh Joshi, to clean and revive some of them.
“The old city of Jodhpur has over 200 stepwells and they were built from around the 6th century onward as part of an incredibly sophisticated water architecture,” he explains. During the little rain that the region receives between June and September water is diverted from canals built on the hilly outskirts of the city to man-made tanks or talabs. 

It then seeps into the ground, raising the water table and recharging an intricate network of aquifers that were built deep, with steps narrowing down to the well to minimise the water that could evaporate.
All that changed after 1996, when the Indira Gandhi canal brought water from the Sutlej River in Punjab and the government started supplying piped water to households. “Earlier people had to collect water from the stepwells with buckets but once piped water came there was suddenly a surfeit and then people no longer cared. They started using the stepwells to just dump garbage,” says Dhananjaya Singh, whose family owns a hotel in Jodhpur and is involved in the restoration of the Toor ji ka jhalra, another stepwell in the old city.
The surfeit, however, didn’t last. Mr. Singh says that over the past few years water from the canal only supplies some households once in two or three days. That, and the constant possibility that Punjab could one day decide to terminate the water supply, made Mr. Singh and others think seriously about making the walled city at least, self-sufficient for water consumption. Cleaning and recharging the stepwells, he says, is the first step toward that. 

Since most of them have fallen into disuse, stepwells are often seen as archaic structures that are not factored into modern town planning.
In an upscale housing colony called Umaid Heritage on the outskirts of the city, a Jodhpur-based architect, Anu Mridul, is attempting an experiment to change that by creating a modern interpretation of a bawari.
A 900-foot-long structure with endless panels of interlocking beams and pillars, it is the first new stepwell created in over a century and Mr. Mridul says it can hold up to 17.5 million litres of water. Once operational, it will be used primarily for rainwater harvesting. 

Mr. Mridul says the idea of building a stepwell rather than relying solely on tanks was motivated by the recognition that the State had a falling water table and the government was struggling to supply water through the canal. 

The model, he says, can be emulated in other parts of the country even if it is not built on the same scale as the Umaid project. “All you need is a natural slope to build a stepwell or otherwise, water can be lifted from different parts. Like the way in which the ancient system in Jodhpur connected all parts of the water architecture, city planners can look at incorporating stepwells into the existing networks,” he says.

Implementing rainwater harvesting

Beyond Jodhpur, districts of western Rajasthan suffer from acute drinking water shortages as they receive only about 200 mm of rainfall per year. Water-restoring structures such as the rainwater tanks and talabs have fallen into disuse given the over-reliance on the government.
“Successive governments promise pipelines and other things because politics in this region is played out through water. So what we are trying to do is teach people to be more self-sufficient,” says Kanupriya Harish, head of the Jal Bhagirati Foundation, an NGO that works to optimise management of scarce water resources.
She adds that despite the acknowledgment by the State government that rainwater harvesting is vital — Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in January this year launched the Jal Swavlamban Yojna to promote the use of rainwater accumulated through traditional methods — implementation on the ground remains slow.





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और स्वस्थ

भारत में गोमूत्र से विकसित कीटनाशक को अमेरिकी पेटेंट

अहमदाबाद। भारतीय शोधकर्ताओं द्वारा गोमूत्र से विकसित कीटनाशक अमेरिकी पेटेंट हासिल करने में सफल रहा है। कामधेनु कीटनियंत्रक नामक इस दवा से सभी तरह के फसलों को कीटों से बचाया जा सकेगा।नागपुर स्थित गो विज्ञान अनुसंधान केंद्र [जीवीएके] ने इस नए कीटनाशक का ईजाद किया है।
अनुसंधान केंद्र के मुख्य समन्वयक सुनील मनसिंघका ने बताया कि इस नवविकसित दवा से फसलों के विकास में चार गुना तक की वृद्धि संभव है। यह विषाणु एवं फंफूद से फसलों की रक्षा करने के अलावा पौधों की प्रतिरोधक क्षमता और मिट्टी की गुणवत्ता को बढ़ाने में सहायक है। उनके मुताबिक कामधेनु कीटनियंत्रक का निर्माण गोमूत्र, नीम और लहसुन को मिलाकर किया गया है। इसके अलावा तीनों अवयवों को अलग-अलग या एक-दूसरे में मिलाकर भी कीटनाशक दवाओं का विकास किया गया है। सुनील का दावा है कि इस कीटनाशक के इस्तेमाल से रासायनिक दवाओं पर आने वाले खर्च को 50 हजार करोड़ रुपये मूल्य तक कम किया जा सकेगा।
1996 में स्थापित जीवीएके ने कामधेनु कीट नियंत्रक दवा का विकास राष्ट्रीय वनस्पति अनुसंधान संस्थान और सीएसआइआर [लखनऊ] के साथ मिलकर किया है। इससे पूर्व जीवीएके द्वारा विकसित कामधेनु अर्क को एंटीबायोटिक्स और कैंसर प्रतिरोधी दवा के रूप में अमेरिकी पेटेंट हासिल हो चुका है।
साभार जागरण


विविध

When communalists turns on environmentalists
Written by Contributor, Mar 28, 2016, 1 Comment

 
Wildlife conservationist Neha Sinha writes: In the past, environmentalists have often been blamed as obstructionist and anti-development. Legal environmental clearance processes have been described as green terrorism because questions of sustainable development and conservation do not always go hand in hand with polluting industrial expansion. But many environmentalists feel being called anti-cultural and anti-Hindu is something new.
The overarching sense is that it is religious practice and use, rather than ecology, science or animal cognition, that is the shining light for subliminal but broad changes in our environmental policies.


Earlier this year, the central government issued a notification that lifted a ban on jallikattu, an ancient bull-taming sport that’s been embroiled in controversy over animal cruelty charges. As a practising wildlife conservationist, I appealed for a rethink on this feudal practice, arguing that baiting a peaceable animal was cruel. I was promptly hectored on social media with a barrage of questions. Twitter users, many of whom had no names or no profile pictures, declared I was against “Hindu religion and custom”. I was also asked what my views on Bakr Id were. Then, I was asked if I supported the beef ban.
My idea was to reflect on the jallikattu sport as cruel in and of itself, divorced from whichever community it originated from. The purpose was not to shame a community but to etch out the non-political, non-human animal as being helpless. The unwitting animal in this case was the very anathema to politics, class, culture or the galvanisation of an organised event. But a green animal-rights issue suddenly seemed to have become painted saffron.
Eating beef and what one feels about Muslim festivals is not analogous to what one feels about jallikattu. When I said I would only focus on the issue at hand, I was accused of practicing ‘selective outrage’ and being ‘sickular’. I could speak about animals only if I would say that I would protect cows and denigrate beef-eating. As a Hindu, I was repeatedly asked if I practise vegetarianism, depicted as akin to holding a conservation science degree – my final qualifier for speaking for animals.
This is simply one in many episodes in the construction of what is Hindu and what is not, when faced by questions to do with animals, environment and wildlife. Conservation biology teaches us to focus only on issues that are researched and known but the ‘bhakts’ will have us know that it’s all about cows.
There is an interesting ‘adarsh liberal’ poster doing the rounds. I haven’t been able to find its origins but I don’t think it’s a satire either; it mirrors much of what environmentalists hear as criticism today.





Two things are happening here. First, when environmentalists critique the religious or cultural agenda, they are descried as unworthy, foreign-funded or anti-Hindu – even should they be dealing with agnostic subjects such as ecology or animal behaviour, concerning a dying river, a hissing cobra or a placid bull. While religion has contributed to conservation, it does not follow that each animal or environment-related issue is a question of religious or communal identity.
Second, the distinction between culture and religion has collapsed. Criticisms of the World Culture Festival held on Delhi’s flood plains earlier this month were buoyed with the mass respectability religion and spirituality bring. Criticism on social media around jallikattu focused on activists being anti-Hindu, even though jallikattu is a community-led event rather than a flagship for Hindu customs.
A lot has been uncovered about trolls loving abuse and hating debate. It is established that they revel in group bullying, showing signs of psychopathy. But to what extent will this mentality inform conservation planning and future choices?The Art of living sponsored World Culture Festival is an interesting case in point. The Art of Living was the principal host of the World Culture Festival. Per court orders, construction on the flood plains is not permitted. The festival, which brought in lakhs of visitors, flattened the plains, concretised it in places, removed reed beds and set up a huge complex. The National Green Tribunal found that the permissions for this event were illegal.
With the existence of an NGT order barring constructions on the floodplain, this was akin to throwing a bash on the Moon, in precisely those areas which are no-go. On social media and other campaign platforms, Art of Living volunteers buried their heads in metaphoric river-sand, denying the very photographs that proved the rampage, and hectoring all those who said otherwise. Others inverted all criticism into an anti-Hindu activity. If secularism is the separation of the state and religion, then this was the Art of Living event appeared to have the blessing of both the state and soft Hindutva, backed by Delhi and the central government.
“I’ve worked for the Yamuna for years. We were simply saying that Yamuna is a dying river and does not need this sort of blow to the floodplain, which recharges the river and Delhi’s water table,” says Vimlendu Jha, an activist who was lobbying for the festival to be shifted away from the floodplains. “The festival bulldozed the flood plain and was actually against the sanctity of the river.” Instead, he and other activists were threatened. “Never before has my environmental activism been viewed as a bad thing. But now, not only do I have trolls coming after me, but also middle class gentry. I was threatened with my life, and people came to my office to intimidate us. On TV shows, I was called anti-national by a BJP spokesperson. It seems if you argue, you are bad. Supporting the river over a music festival is anti-national,” he says.
Interestingly, while AOL did not once accept the damage they caused, they inverted the incident to claim they wouldrestore the floodplain. The sanctimonious spirituality on display involved usurping the area and then declaring it would be saved – the classic, pay, pollute, repeat that has been the fate of the Yamuna’s banks since the time of the Commonwealth Games. Only, this time, it came backed with state silence and the gleaming badge of religious colonisation and respectability, according to activists.
In the past, environmentalists have been blamed as obstructionist and anti-development. Legal environmental clearance processes have been described as green terrorism because questions of sustainable development and conservation do not always go hand in hand with polluting industrial expansion. But many environmentalists feel being called anti-cultural and anti-Hindu is new. “I appealed to people not to use glass-coated manja (kite-string) on Makar Sankranti as this leads to the death and injury of thousands of birds,” says wildlife conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra. “Immediately I was told that I was against Hindu culture. Then, I was told that I raise objections to anything that is Hindu. The environment is important to all of us. Giving this a religious spin is bizarre – and bad for the cause,” she says. It doesn’t end there. “I am asked next what I have done for cows.”
Another environmental activist adds, “If anything critical of the ruling government is said, you are immediately classed as anti-Hindu, anti-national and a ‘Congressi’. There is a mob constantly on the watch, on every possible platform, waiting to attack you. What is most disturbing is that this sort of extreme right nationalism seems to have affected even that class of people who were once believed to be well educated, well-travelled, broad minded, forward thinking and above religion.”
Social media, of course, is not the real world. But there are indications that the government is interested in colonising secular animals as religious subjects, or as cogs in customs which have loud lobbyists. For instance, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is mulling changing the Wildlife Protection Act and wildlife policy to allow the hunting of animals for “religion and culture”. At the forefront of this wishlist are customs such as Nag Panchami, in which cobras and other snakes are illegally caught to be worshipped. The practice almost always leads to complete mortality as snakes are averse to human handling; their mouths are usually stitched with needle thread and on capture. Interestingly, allowing for the capture of cobras and snakes for Nag Panchami, a longstanding demand from Hindu groups, also found its way in the recommendations of the T.S.R. Subramaniam committee report, which was tasked with suggesting amendments to five Indian environmental laws.
That cobras and religious hunting found mention along with far-reaching, big-picture recommendations, such as environmental clearances and penalties for environment damage, gave an insight into favoured policy aspirations. The overarching sense is that it is religious practice and use, rather than ecology, science or animal cognition, that is the shining light for these subliminal but broad changes.


Revised Solid Waste Management Rules Mandate Inclusion of Wastepickers!

Source: https://wastenarratives.com/2016/04/23/revised-solid-waste-management-rules-mandate-inclusion-of-wastepickers/

The recently released Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 are a matter of celebration. They acknowledge the contribution of wastepickers in keeping our cities clean. Prescriptions are made for the inclusion of waste pickers and informal waste workers (identified as informal waste collectors) in waste management services. There are few flaws in the given document, those need to be rectified while making policies and plans for solid waste management at the state and city level as mandated by the rules.
Clear mandate for inclusion of wastepickers in door to door collection and other waste management services





The rules define wastepickers and other informal waste collectors, respectively as follows:
“waste picker” means a person or groups of persons informally engaged in collection and recovery of reusable and recyclable solid waste from the source of waste generation the streets, bins, material recovery facilities, processing and waste disposal facilities for sale to recyclers directly or through intermediaries to earn their livelihood.
“informal waste collector” includes individuals, associations or waste traders who are involved in sorting, sale and purchase of recyclable materials.
As per our understanding of the waste economy hierarchy i.e. apart from wastepickers; itinerant (kabadiwallas) buyers, scrap dealers etc. have all been clubbed together in the definition of ‘informal waste collector’. Such a measure is welcome as it is inclusive of all relevant vocations in informal waste economy. Further, the rules propose issuance of occupational identity cards to wastepickers and informal waste collectors and their integration in door to collection as responsibility and duty of local authorities and village panchayats, rules also command setting up of material recovery facilities which enables wastepickers and waste collectors to separate recyclables from the waste, and state that incentives need to be provided to recycling initiatives by informal waste recycling sector. Local bodies have been asked to do capacity building of wastepickers and waste collectors through training. For the strengthened implementation of rules, department in charge of local bodies of all state governments have been asked to constitute state level advisory committees, which will have representative of waste pickers and informal waste recyclers.
It is worth mentioning that the representative of wastepickers: General Secretary of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat- Harshad Barde was included in the committee to finalize these rules. We are grateful to all committee members including Harshad Barde for such a commendable job.
Coming to the measures which need to be rectified are:
  • Source segregation: The rules prescribe source segregation in 3 categories: Dry, Wet & Hazardous Waste. Instead of streamlining sanitary waste separately, they suggest that waste generators ‘wrap securely the used sanitary waste like diapers, sanitary pads etc., in the pouches provided by the manufacturers or brand owners of these products or in a suitable wrapping material as instructed by the local authorities and shall place the same in the bin meant for dry waste or non- bio-degradable waste.’ This is unacceptable, sanitary waste should be considered a separate stream and should not be mixed up with dry waste. As we know dry waste will be sorted by wastepickers in secondary collection center or material recovery facility, in case of Bengaluru- those are termed as Kartvavya/ neighbourhood dry waste collection centers. If sanitary waste is mixed with dry waste, while sorting wastepickers will be forced to touch the human excreta and other biological waste, which is a violation of prohibition of manual scavenging act. Therefore, while framing state and city plans collection of sanitary waste should be separately streamlined as is done in Bengaluru through the enforcement of 2 bin 1 bag. 2 bins for organic waste and sanitary/reject waste respectively and bag for dry waste. Karnataka High in its order given on 16th December, 2015 has also directed the implementation of 2 bin 1 bag concept at household level. For reference- definitions of dry, biodegradable and hazardous waste have been provided here: dry waste” means waste other than bio-degradable waste and inert street sweepings and includes recyclable and non-recyclable waste, combustible waste and sanitary napkin and diapers, etc; “biodegradable waste ” means any organic material that can be degraded by micro-organisms into simpler stable compounds; “domestic hazardous waste” means discarded paint drums, pesticide cans, CFL bulbs, tube lights, expired medicines, broken mercury thermometers, used batteries, used needles and syringes and contaminated gauge, etc., generated at the household level.
  • Removal of quantity from definition of Bulk Generator: “bulk waste generator” means and includes buildings occupied by the Central government departments or undertakings, State government departments or undertakings, local bodies, public sector undertakings or private companies, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges, universities, other educational institutions, hostels, hotels, commercial establishments, markets, places of worship, stadia and sports complexes having an average waste generation rate exceeding 100kg per day. The mention of quantity makes it cumbersome to identify bulk generators as most of these institutions don’t generate uniform amount of waste every day. For example, on a day of festival a temple must be generating around 500 kilograms of waste and on a regular day it’s waste generation doesn’t exceed 50 kilograms. In such cases monitoring of average waste generated will be next to impossible. It is suggested that the definition should exclude mention of quantity of waste generation i.e. average waste generation rate exceeding 100kg per day.
  • Rules command manufacturers or brand owners of sanitary napkins and diapers to ‘explore the possibility of using all recyclable materials in their products or they shall provide a pouch or wrapper for disposal of each napkin or diapers along with the packet of their sanitary products. All such manufacturers, brand owners or marketing companies shall educate the masses for wrapping and disposal of their products.’ As per the principle of Extended Producers’ Responsibility the duty of manufactures and brand owners should not be limited to providing packets for their products but also taking the charge of creating disposal facility for sanitary waste with the support of municipal authority.
While getting in the implementation mode, we will have to do course correction time to time and the list of suggestions for strengthening waste management will not be exhaustive. There are visible improvements in the standards for scientific landfill, leachate, compost and incineration/co-processing facilities. It needs a separate analysis and therefore, has not been mentioned in this post. There are many features which this post has not touched upon but we will be doing so in the coming days and weeks. To conclude, I would like to state that out of 10 demands made to the union ministry by Alliance of Indian Wastepickers, a network of wastepickers organisations from all over India, 7 have been fully or partially satisfied in the framing of rules. A lot has been stated, a lot needs to be done. It is time for some rectification and rest implementation.  implementation and implementation.
For reference demands are given below:
  1. Waste-pickers and informal waste recyclers should be identified, registered, authorised and integrated into the solid waste management system by local governments. Thereby, should be recognized and identified as green collar workers.
  2. Occupational Identity cards should be issued to waste-pickers by the local/Municipal governments with the involvement of waste-pickers’ collective.
  3. Sorting (secondary segregation/ fine segregation) should be recognized as a crucial activity in SWM. Space for sorting and temporary storage of recyclables should be made available for waste-pickers in a decentralized manner.
  4. Waste-pickers should be afforded free and easy access to recyclables at source of generation as well as at secondary storage, material recovery, transfer, processing and disposal facilities.
  5. Introduce a comprehensive EPR policy under both Municipal Solid Waste and Plastic Waste Management rules to tackle difficult streams of waste such as sanitary waste, multi-layered packaging etc. and providing support to waste-pickers in collecting and diverting low value recyclables.
  6. Manufacturers of sanitary products like diapers, sanitary napkins etc. should be required to provide uniquely marked leak proof bags for the safe disposal of each individual product.
  7. Waste-pickers should be allowed to retain the waste collected by them.
  8. State and local governments should promote integration of waste-pickers into solid waste management systems by:
    1. Incentivizing formation of membership based organisations of waste-pickers including self- help groups, cooperatives, unions and companies.
    2. Preference for integration into door-to-door collection and processing facilities
    3. Authorize waste pickers to collect user fee from the beneficiaries of their services
    4. Handing over management of material recovery and other waste processing facilities to collectives of waste-pickers.
    5. Training and capacity building of waste-pickers in fine sorting, composting, bio-methanation and scrap shops management
    6. Provision of safety equipment, social security and health benefits to waste-pickers, including inclusion in housing schemes, food and security measures (for their children) as priority.
  9. National, State and Local policies/ strategies/ plans should be made in consultation with waste-pickers and their organisations.
  10. Waste-pickers should be involved in monitoring and advisory committees.
  11. Viability gap funding, tax concessions, credit at low rate of interest etc. should be made available to participants in the informal waste recycling sector.





Source:http://epaper.jagran.com/homepage.aspx#
Dainik jagran dated 6 May 2016







dainik jagaran dated 6 May 2016





Dainik jagaran dated 6 may 2016




Dainak jagaran 6 May 2016



Drinking water, sipping poison
The Hindu; 5 May 2016



Girs from Gettur fetch water from a neighbouring Panchayat. Gettur has not received Hogenakkal water in three months. Photo: N. Bhaskaran
Fluoride contamination has severely affected residents in drought hit areas in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri. A mitigation project has suffered from distribution issues.
India’s water quality problem is reaching crisis proportions, and today at least 1.95 crore habitations are affected by poor water quality. Over 3.6 crore people are exposed to health hazards owing to drinking water containing excess arsenic, fluoride, iron, salinity or nitrate. 66 million Indians are at risk due to excess fluoride and more than six million have already been crippled by high fluoride content in drinking water. In some cases such contamination occurs due to the overexploitation of groundwater. Besides metal poisoning, bacterial contamination affects at least 37.7 million Indians annually, with 1.5 million child fatalities due to diarrhoea. Urgent investments are needed to stave off the crisis of water quality focusing on water treatment solutions such as reverse osmosis, and also on improving water storage infrastructure so that the water table is recharged . The third of a six-part series is on the effects of poor water quality in drought-prone Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts in Tamil Nadu.
Tears plop down Ammasi’s sunken cheeks that get bruised every time she gets one of her epileptic seizures. Married off at 18 years, Ammasi was abandoned by her husband a month later, after one such seizure. Today this 26-year-old finds her single status debilitating. “Is it the water?” asks her brother Karthik, who too suffers epilepsy.
The lab report of Sivakumar (36) shows his serum creatinine count as 12.56 mg against the normal 1.4 mg, and his urea count is 127 mg against the permissible 45 mg. Both his kidneys failed, requiring him to travel every fortnight to Salem for dialysis. ‘The hospital said it was the water. They suggested a transplant that I can’t afford,” says this father of three children, out of work for the last two years.
Susceptible to Fluorosis
In the same street 58-year-old Govindammal died ten days ago from renal failure. And across the lane, 35-year-old Kanagaraj has been diagnosed with early stage renal dysfunction. His eight-year-old daughter born with mental retardation, died a week ago. “She had fever,” he says.
Here in Oddanur in Nagamarai Panchayat in Pennagaram, renal failure is quoted with the nonchalance reserved for common cold.
Until recently, people of Oddanur drank from a fluoride-contaminated groundwater hand pump. On the Panchayat’s request water quality was tested by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board and the hand pump was red-marked as highly contaminated.
The 150 households of Oddanur now depend on the second and only hand pump remaining in the village, although it produces saline water. “Look at our vessels, this is the water we drink, we cook with,” says Paapathi, a ward member, waving the corrosively stained stainless-steel vessels.
This is a young population cut off from the workforce owing to rickets, epilepsy, and renal failure within a radius of few lanes. “We know fluorosis causes renal ailments, but we are not sure about others,” says an official. 


Forty kilometres down at Hogenakkal in Pennagaram, the headworks of the multi-billion dollar Hogenakkal Drinking Water and Fluorosis Mitigation project stands tall, with its mammoth booster station, master balance reservoir and state-of-art water treatment facility.
Here water is tapped at source, from the Cauvery gushing into Tamil Nadu, and is carried for around 700 metres to one kilometre to the mainland for habitations in the two districts of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri. Since it is tapped at source, the water is seen as dependable even under drought conditions.

Distribution lags
The project was commissioned to supply water treated at a cost of Rs.42.21 per kilolitre for habitations like Oddanur, but this state-of-art supply-side infrastructure is bogged down by distribution lags.
Oddanur receives Hogenakkal water once a week. “The 60,000 litre Overhead Tank (OHT) takes two days and half to fill due to low voltage and a pipeline flaw,” says Kandavel, OHT operator. In neighbouring Odayaankadu, a new OHT still awaits connection.
In Paaparapatty town Panchayat, 30 kilometers from Pennagaram, a household gets 25 cans every three days. “We use this for bathing, when it gets closer to the next supply” says a woman.
Technically, this Japan-funded multi-billion dollar Hogenakkal Drinking Water and Fluorosis Mitigation project established at a cost of Rs.1928.80 crore has fulfilled its mandate, “covering” its targeted 7,716 habitations, 17 town Panchayats and three municipalities in the two districts.
But the numbers fail to capture the whole picture. Fed by power from different feeders from different stations, the project design assumes a 12-hour power supply in rural habitations, and hinges on partial pumping and partial gradient flow. In elevated terrains, multiple boosting is required and power supply should be available at all pumping stations for synchronised pumping.
“In many places, there is not enough power even at the substations. A 33 KV substation receives just about 23 KV supply,” says an official source. There is also tampering of pipelines and pilferage at places.
Several habitations have now threatened a poll boycott on the Hogenakkal water issue. On the campaign turf, the opposition has contested the AIADMK’s claims to the project’s success. The project component itself appears to recognise only dental fluorosis leaving in the lurch people like Sivakumar, and Ammasi, who need diagnostic intervention.


Remote sensing and ‘divining’ in a desperate quest for water

Source:http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/remote-sensing-and-divining-in-a-desperate-quest-for-water/article8557959.ece
The hindu dated 5 May 2016




In the quest for groundwater this summer, people seem to be relying on both cutting edge satellite images and traditional beliefs like ‘water divining’.
Over a month back, the State Government decided to use the Indian Space Research Organisation’s satellite images to locate borewells in four taluks of three districts of North Karnataka: Indi in Vijayapura; Afzalpur and Aland in Kalaburagi; and Kundagol in Dharwad. The ploy worked. Tadaalaga and Aland have now become tanker-free in recent weeks, thanks to borewells sunk in the spots located by satellite images. Both taluks had been dependent on water supply through tankers, since November 2015.

Private land problem
However, in Dharwad’s drought hit taluk of Kundagol, the government's remote sensing -based borewell action plan has hit a block. Although eight underground water points in Kundagol were identified from satellite maps, officials in the zilla panchayat engineering department said they could not drill the wells as all points are in private properties.
Kundagol's tahsildar has been tasked with two options: negotiate compensation with land owners or acquiring lands.

Meanwhile, in places where the government did not seek satellite images, it’s the practice of ‘water divining’ that people have resorted to as a desperate search is on for trustworthy “water diviners”. They are in huge demand even in the country’s IT capital.
A gated community on the Kanakapura Main Road wanted to sink another borewell as a standby, after the first one was almost dry, and they took the help of Bora Linga, who claims have powers to detect groundwater with the throbbing of his veins. He walked around the 12-acre campus and identified a spot, and when the borewell was dug there was water, said a resident.
There are nearly two dozen water diviners from Karnataka actively involved in the practice of locating underground water. Their fees range from anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000 for every successful find.

'Dubious practice'
This is despite scientists questioning the practice and arguing it is not based on concrete evidence. “Science does not believe in divining. There is no meaning attached to this coinage, 'water diviners',” said hydro-geologist K.C. Subhash Chandra.
Several residents argue that the reliance on the practice of “divining” is cheaper and less time consuming than more scientifically proven methods.

Scarcity in Mettur's vicinity
The Hindu, 6 May 2016




Water gushing out of from the 16-vent surplus channel of the Stanley Reservoir durng April-end. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Even as water levels in the Mettur dam have dropped precipitously, farmers complain about the lack of diversion of surplus flows from the dam into nearby water bodies.

India is facing a dire need for greater and more efficient water storage, without which the country’s grossly insufficient storage capacity amplifies the effect of rainfall deficits, and exacerbates drought conditions. On the one hand, per capita availability of fresh water has declined sharply from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres over the past 50 years, while the global average hovers at around 6,000 cubic metres. Simultaneously, each year India is estimated to lose the approximately two-thirds of the new water storage capacity to excessive siltation and improperly managed runoff. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, 200 large and medium-sized irrigation works were constructed yet the area irrigated by such schemes shrank by 3.2mn hectares. Unless sizeable investments are undertaken to de-silt reservoirs and repair damaged canals, dams and irrigation works some estimate that by 2050 India may well run short of water. The fourth installment of a six-part series examines the problems of water storage and surplus management in the Mettur Dam catchment area in Tamil Nadu. 

Anbu, a businessman, from Govindappadi village near the majestic Mettur dam, is one of many residents caught in what seems to be an unusual predicament. “Our villages, despite proximity to the Cauvery, face acute drinking water scarcity,” he says, adding, “It is no better than the drought prone areas of Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts.”
His story is not uncommon to this area. The Mettur dam may be the lifeline of the Cauvery delta supplying drinking water to almost one-third of the population of the state, but for villages surrounding the structure water scarcity is an everyday reality. Irrigation has also been compromised in the proximity of what should in theory be a water- zone, and after fighting for over four decades to divert the dam’s water to water bodies in the district farmers in delta are ready to throw in the towel.
N. Perumal, State General Secretary of the Tamil Maanila Congress Vivasaya Sangam is cynical. He says that despite receiving excess rainfall during the months of November-December, the rural areas of Salem district are bracing for an acute water crisis with Mettur Dam and other water bodies drying up fast. “The farm activities in about 45,000 acres in Salem, Namakkal and Erode districts under the Mettur dam’s East-West Canal scheme is undertaken with much difficulty every year,” he says, with a resigned air.
Frustrated by the constant wastage of surplus water released through 16-vent Ellis Saddle surplus channel, office-bearers of the Cauvery Surplus Water Action Committee complain, “It is painful to see surplus water flowing into the sea without benefiting anyone.”
If supply is this erratic during times of relative comfort, then how severe would water scarcity be when drought-like conditions grip the region?



Wasting precious water
Even though parts of Tamil Nadu have escaped the burning heat and dry conditions of North India, such as what the Marathwada region in Maharashtra is witnessing, the efficiency of water storage here inspires neither confidence nor hope.
The Mettur dam has "surplussed" more than 40 times in its 82 years of existence. Surplussing occurs during the southwest monsoon when five to 80 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water drains in to the sea, while 70 per cent of lakes in Salem remain dry. 





Despite such surplussing, on Thursday the water level in the Mettur dam had dropped to an alarming 50.10 feet against its total capacity of 120 feet. While the inflow was only 44 cubic feet per second (cusec) 2,000 cusecs had to be discharged to supply drinking water to the delta districts. Even worse, it would appear that the discharge is not being taken up efficiently, either for drinking water or for irrigation. Instead it ends up as run-off, which is water that is wasted rather than channelled for any useful purpose.
On multiple occasions the farming community here demanded that the government harvest surplus water released from Mettur dam to fill water bodies in Salem, Namakkal and Erode. If the authorities had complied, the water-laden tanks, ponds and reservoirs in the area would have recharged the groundwater. They have not.


Silt accumulation
Besides poor water management owing to ineffective systems for tapping the run-off of surplus water, the accumulation of silt has been a serious obstacle to attaining full storage potential at the Stanley reservoir in Mettur. The Reservoir was constructed in 1934. Yet it has not been desilted even once. Such negligence has resulted in a situation where the Mettur dam has been losing on an average 0.4 per cent of its holding capacity due to silt and sand every year, according to A. Mohanakrishnan, former Advisor to State Government on Water Resources.
Today the dam’s actual capacity stands at only about 65 tmcft, down from its total capacity of 93.47 tm, with silt accumulation accounting for 20 per cent of the storage capacity of the dam.
Unless there is a major intervention in the water storage ecosystem of this region, residents such as Anbu and Perumal will continue to be water-poor in potentially one of the most water-rich regions of the state.

Water level in dams dips to a new low

Source:http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/water-level-in-dams-dips-to-a-new-low/article8562523.ece
The Hindu; dated 6May 2016




The storage in major reservoirs across the country has fallen to 19% of their total capacity.

Water storage in major Indian reservoirs has dipped to 19% of their total capacity, according to a weekly update by the Central Water Commission.

Water storage in major Indian reservoirs has dipped to 19% of their total capacity, according to a weekly update by the Central Water Commission on Thursday.
On the back of consecutive droughts in 2014 and 2015, several parts of India have faced searing droughts. This has contributed to water in these 91 dams steadily falling to touch decadal lows since April but a top official said water levels had not ever dipped below 20%.

‘Situation not critical’
“I don’t immediately remember whether it has ever dipped below 20%,” G.S. Jha , CWC Chairman, told The Hindu “but not in the last 4-5 years at least.”
Mr. Jha, however, emphasised that the situation “wasn’t critical” because there was enough drinking water and several dams were drained out of extra water during May in anticipation of a good monsoon. “The monsoons are expected in Kerala by the end of this month so I think the latest figures shouldn’t cause alarm.” Droughts in Maharashtra had forced the government to send water in trains to Latur to provide for drinking water.
He said there was also reduced water demand for agricultural purposes during the summer months and in anticipation of the monsoon, beginning June.
The CWC sends out a weekly update of the water levels in 91 of India’s major dams. Though these are less than 2% of India’s approximately 4,500 dams, they store nearly two-thirds of India’s reservoir water. Out of these reservoirs, 37 reservoirs have hydropower benefit with installed capacity of more than 60 MW.

Significant declines
According to the Thursday update, the current year’s storage is nearly 64 per cent of last year’s storage and 77 per cent of the average of last 10 years.
The most significant declines have registered in the Indus, Tapi and Mahi basins which are 35%, 39% and 42% less than their decadal normals.
A good monsoon is critical to replenishing these reservoirs. Last month, the India Meteorological Department has forecast the monsoon rains during June-September to be 106% of the normal. Later this month it is expected to announce a date for the monsoon onset over Kerala.

Politics over an empty water-train in Bundelkhand
6 may 2016; the hindu

Source:http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/politics-over-an-empty-watertrain-in-bundelkhand/article8563089.ece





Running on empty:A water train sent by the Centre at the railway yard in Jhansi on Thursday.— photo: pti
Confusion and politics over drought prevailed in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday as the Samajwadi Party government refused outright the Centre’s offer of a “water-train” for the parched region of Bundelkhand, even as a 10-wagon train destined for Mahoba lay stranded at a rail yard in Jhansi, with officials clueless about what to do next.
The train, with a capacity of more than 5 lakh litres, is, however, empty. “The wagons do not contain any water or oil,” NCR Jhansi Division spokesperson Girish Kanchan told The Hindu .
The disposal of the wagons is yet to be decided as the Mahoba district administration had neither “refused nor demanded” them, Mr. Kanchan said. “We are awaiting instructions from our headquarters in Allahabad,” he said.
Chitrakoot Divisional Commissioner Venkateshwarlu said the Mahoba district had not made any such demand.
The rejection of the Centre’s aid by the SP government, which claimed that Bundelkhand had sufficient water, triggered a war of words with parties accusing each other of playing politics over water.
‘A drama’
SP Cabinet Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said the Centre’s proposal to provide a water-train was a “drama,” while Union Water Resources Minister and Jhansi MP Uma Bharti, in a letter to U.P. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, described his decision to refuse Centre aid as “ridiculous” and cited the grave water scarcity in Bundelkhand.
Mr. Yadav, who is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 7 to discuss the drought situation, shot off a reply to Ms. Bharti requesting 10,000 tankers for the region. Since Bundelkhand’s reservoirs still had adequate water, the region’s urgent requirement was that of tankers, he said.

A new plan to clean up Yamuna




Sorry sight: Last year, the Centre and Delhi government had set up a special purpose vehicle to execute projects to clean the Yamuna. Experts, however, say there has been no progress on the ground. (File photo)

new plan to clean Yamuna, including removal of solid waste and preventing sewage from flowing into the river, is likely to be announced by the Union and Delhi governments soon.
According to sources in the Delhi government, several measures to improve water quality and an overall plan to combat pollution in the Yamuna are likely to be revealed on Saturday. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and Delhi Water Minister and chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board Kapil Mishra have had several meetings, and are expected to announce a plan soon.
Mr. Mishra told The Hindu : “Things have been moving in a positive direction. Very soon you would see positive steps.”
The measures are likely to include a Rs.700-crore fund from the Centre for sewage treatment plants at Kondli and Rithala. A new ghat for Chhat prayers is likely to be developed at ITO, while a steamer to collect solid waste from the river is also expected to be announced. Apart from these, Ms. Bharti and Mr. Mishra could issue a joint statement on the plans for cleaning the river.
This isn’t the first time that the two governments have come together for the cause. Last year, the Centre and Delhi government had set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to execute projects to clean the Yamuna. Experts, however, say there has been no progress on the ground.
“No work has been done after the announcement of the SPV. Instead of announcing plans, the government should follow the National Green Tribunal’s judgment of last year that lays out a detailed blueprint,” said Manoj Misra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan.
Mr. Misra was referring to the NGT’s order titled ‘Maily se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project, 2017’, which issued strict measures for curbing pollution in the river. Among them was a total ban on construction on the floodplains, and the setting up of 15 mini-sewage treatment plants.
Over the years, both the Centre and Delhi government have spent thousands of crores on cleaning the river. Despite this, Delhi’s 18 major drains drop 3,500 million litres of water into the river every day.

Food in India untested for diabetes-linked chemical
5 May 2016; The Hindu




Alloxan is used in laboratories to induce diabetes in rats
Alloxan, a chemical allegedly used in the manufacture of refined flour, faced the prospect of limitations on its use after a litigant approached the Madras High Court to request a ban on the mixing of alloxan in white flour. Alloxan is used in laboratories to induce diabetes in rats and to test the efficacy of anti-diabetic medicines but no tests have been scientifically done to detect its presence in India.
Increased risk
Global health literature suggests that its presence in flour implies that consumers of popular Indian food such as parathas and puris are at increased risk of diabetes as well as heart disease.
In a 2013 report The Hindu quoted several Madurai-based cardiologists who suggested that alloxan and other agents in flour may be associated with heart disease.
Alloxan has been banned by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the Delhi-based central body that has the final say on what additives are permissible in food.
Independent food testing labs in Delhi say that they have yet to detect the presence of the substance. “So far we haven’t noted alloxan in our tests,” said Sunil S., a food chemist at the Shriram Institute of Industrial Research.
Alloxan’s chemical existence has been known since the 19th century, when it was discovered in human excretions, indicating that it could be synthesised in the body.
Alloxan’s structure mimics that of glucose, which allows it to be absorbed by the pancreas and once inside the organ, it destroys insulin-producing beta cells.
However, according to the American Chemical Society, it cannot be taken up by the human pancreas, though it has been shown to be associated with liver and kidney toxicity.
No known studies have yet specifically discovered alloxan in Indian foods. However other bleaching agents that are used to make flour white, such as benzoyl peroxide and chlorine oxide — and also named in the petition before the Madras High Court — are permitted by the FSSAI provided they appear below specified limits, according to a notification on the agency’s website.
There have been no studies that examine the issue of alloxan in street food, said an official with Delhi’s Food Safety department, who did not want to be identified. The United States Food and Drugs Administration has also not issued specific notifications on alloxan.

Water shortage likely in the Capital
6 May 2016; The Hindu


        Wazirabad and Chandrawal water treatment plants
 functioned at 50 per cent capacity 

Large parts of the city are likely to face water shortage on Friday morning as untreated water supply to Delhi from Haryana fell on Thursday.
However, a more severe crisis has been averted for now with Uttar Pradesh agreeing to continue water supply from the Tehri lake in Uttarakhand, where the water level has dropped sharply.
The Delhi Jal Board’s Wazirabad and Chandrawal water treatment plants functioned at 50 per cent of their capacity on Thursday because of inadequate raw water supply.
Both the Munak Canal and the regular course of the Yamuna had less water, which forced the DJB to curtail production at the two plants. On Friday, Delhi will get 50 million gallons less water than the usual 900 million gallons per day (MGD).
The DJB said in a statement that the “acute drop” in the level of the Wazirabad pond and the “reduced supply” in the carrier-lined channel would hit supply in the whole city, except East Delhi. The affected areas would include Lutyens’ Delhi, North Delhi, Northwest Delhi, Central Delhi, and parts of South and West Delhi.
According to DJB officials, Haryana was releasing 200 cusecs of water through the Yamuna, but most of it is evaporating before reaching Delhi.
According to a Supreme Court order, Haryana is supposed to maintain the level of the Wazirabad pond, which is fed by the river. The DJB will write to the Haryana government to raise the issue soon, said a senior official.
DJB chairperson Kapil Mishra said Uttar Pradesh had agreed to continue water supply through the Upper Ganga Canal, which feeds the Sonia Vihar and Bhagirathi plants.
These two plants account for about 25 per cent of the DJB’s treated water supply. Coupled with the decrease in water from Haryana, any dip in supply from UP could have been disastrous for Delhiites.

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