Tamil Nadu gears to rid agricultural, environmental malaise

June 7th, 2008 - 3:59 pm ICT by IANS  

By T.S.V. Hari
Chennai, June 7 (IANS) Over 20 private companies that had sold illegal low-yield paddy seeds to farmers mainly in the Cauvery delta region and partly in the entire south for a decade flaunting fake quality certificates have been raided by the state police’s Food Cell. As a result, low-yield paddy seeds worth Rs.6 million were seized Friday, officials said on phone from Erode.

“A drive has been initiated against profiteers who prey on poor farmers affecting the agricultural produce of the state. Seeds at various private warehouses here are under scrutiny following discovery of 300 tonnes of seeds yielding less than 50 percent against a prescribed yield of 83 percent. Some of these were sold all over south India. The networked criminals will be actively prosecuted,” Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar told IANS from Erode.

Situated 350 km southwest of state capital Chennai and irrigated by river Cauvery, Erode district is home to over 60 private companies that produce seeds many of which may not pass muster, government sources said.

Some 450 km due south of here, the usually bone dry Virudhunagar district is combating an altogether different malaise.

Following copious rains last season, catchment areas meant to feed fields have been invaded by a strain of hyacinth known to suck the water table dry and worse.

The problem is being tackled on a war-footing by the district administration upon urging by the state’s agriculture secretary Surjit K. Chaudhary.

“We are acting on complaints of the spread of one particular strain of hyacinth found in Virudhunagar district affecting almost all village ponds. Its samples are being investigated to see whether they are the source of chronic water scarcity in the district. As we know that this plant also triggers several illnesses, experts are being consulted to rid the state and the entire nation of this foreign, organic parasite,” Chaudhary said.

In a report published Aug 16 2000, Ricardo Labrada, an officer of United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Plant Protection Service, said: “Hyacinth is the most damaging pernicious and invasive water weed that originated from South America.”

UN investigations revealed that the plant was introduced into North America in 1884 as a decorative element and ended up spreading to various parts of the world as a major problem.

The weed is known to cover freshwater lakes and ponds entirely, blocking sunlight from its own aquatic base, killing fish and turtles. It also causes mosquitoes to breed which in turn trigger a debilitating illness bilharzia that affects human, bird and aquatic life, the report added.

Wrong methods of agriculture are also breeding grounds for other maladies, S. Singaravadivelu, director, National Horticultural Board said.

“Surfeit of chemical fertilisers used in agriculture by farmers for higher yields are causes of diabetes, cancer and other diseases which have no known organic reason. Since they also reduce the size of harvests, ryots seeking higher prices for their produce ought to know that they are triggering catastrophes - human, economic and environmental by their inherent misconceptions of farming,” Singaravadivelu warned at a symposium in Vallam, a small village 350 km south of here, Friday.

“The best way to reduce cost of cultivation is natural farming, adequately subsidised by the Horticulture Department. It is healthy and cheaper than most existing methods prevalent in the country,” Singaravadivelu added.

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