Greenpeace “Living Soils” campaign calls to save soils from harmful chemical fertilizers

August 3rd, 2010 - 2:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Guwahati/New Delhi, Aug.3 (ANI): Greenpeace India today launched “Living Soils”, a nationwide campaign with a call to implement Government policies to save soils from the harmful impacts of chemical fertilizers.

This campaign assumes significance in the context of the Central Government acknowledging1the agrarian crisis due to soil degradation and initiating a reform in its fertilizer subsidy policy. As part of the campaign, a series of social audits will be organized in selected districts of Assam, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka.

“The ‘Living Soils Campaign’ will bring out grass root level realities concerning soil health and soil fertility management policies of the Central Government, including the newly launched Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS)2 for chemical fertilizers and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)3.which aims at overall agriculture development.

These will be reviewed using a participatory approach, basically to examine their capability to solve the soil degradation crisis and the impending food security threat,” said Gopikrishna S R, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India. He further stated that “The information, observations, data, and insights collected from the grass roots will be compiled and submitted to the policy makers at the Centre and respective states”.

Soil is an ecosystem which is home to several living organisms. Organic matter both in terms of quality and quantity is vital to sustain life in this ecosystem. Indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers gradually leads to its degradation. Deteriorated/dead soils lead to poor plant growth and thus reduced productivity of agricultural system.

“Any policy in Agriculture will be successful, only if we have a vibrant soil ecosystem. If the soils are dead, all investments in Agriculture will go waste. So there is an urgent need to act on a comprehensive policy to support ecological fertilization practices. This is critical to ensure food security of the country”, said Dr Amiya Sharma, Executive Director, Rashtriyia Gramin Vikas Nidhi (RGVN).

Every year Central Government spends around Rs 50,000 crores on chemical fertilizer subsidies, and this is a major driver that catalyzes intensive chemical fertilizer usage4. The Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) policy which was brought in to correct this problem continues to support only chemical fertilizers, and hence fails in its own cause. The new policy proves to be an old wine in new bottle.

“On one hand our Union Government worries about the declining agricultural productivity due to soil degradation and food security and on the other hand they continue to support chemical fertilizers. Support for organic fertilization practices in mainstream agriculture is very minimal. This anomaly can jeopardise the Agriculture production system”, said Tapan Sharma of Diamond Club Community Center, Sipachar, Darrang.

“We should not wait for the problems to appear. In the case of Assam we should learn from bad experiences from other regions and go the ecological way at the earliest, said Kulendra Deka, General Secretary of North East Centre for All Round Development (NE CARD), Darrang

In Assam, the survey and the public hearing will be organized in Darrang district, which has one of the highest per hectare fertilizer consumption in the State.

Apart from the direct visible impacts, manufacture and use of chemical fertilisers also contributes significantly to emissions of greenhouse gases, and thus climate change. The total emissions from the manufacture and use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers represent six per cent (three percent each from manufacture and usage) of India’s total emissions, comparable to sectors like cement or iron and steel industries, and to emissions from the entire road transport system four and five. Chemical fertilizers also contaminate drinking water6 and pose threat to human health..

Several states in the country including Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram and Uttarakhand have initiated policies to support ecological farming. North eastern states have taken more pro-active roles. Sikkim, Nagaland, and Mizoram have decided to go completely organic. But the Central Government continues to push the high external input chemical intensive model of farming, which is evident from the new NBS policy and the decision to push intensive agriculture models in the eastern states under RKVY.

Pursuing an agenda to ensure healthy soils and sustainable Agriculture production Greenpeace has been making the following demands.1. Create an alternate subsidy system that promotes ecological farming and use of organic soil amendments.

2. Shift the irrational subsidy policy for synthetic fertilisers to sustainable ecological practices in agriculture.

3. Re-focus scientific research on ecological alternatives, to identify agro-ecological practices that ensure future food security under a changing climate. (ANI)

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