Senior Cabinet Minister of the NDA government Suresh Prabhu called for strong regional cooperation in agriculture, water management and climate change.
Opening the first South Asia Economic Conclave, being organised in New Delhi by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in cooperation with Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the World Bank Prabhu said that the South Asian nations would benefit exponentially by deepening regional cooperation in area of agriculture which is the main source of livelihood for the majority of people living in the region.
Prabhu urged the South Asian countries to learn from each other’s strengths in the agriculture sector, as well as adopt cropping patterns that are suited to the agro-climate zones of each of the countries. This would greatly enhance the overall agriculture productivity in the region.
He said with South Asia being predominantly agriculture driven, the countries should focus on cooperation in this sector, especially on new seeds, less water consuming crops and heat resistant crops. Prabhu underscored the need for deeper regional cooperation in the area of agriculture research and urged the countries to share their expert pre- and post-harvest practices for the common good of the region.
Noting that the top-soil across the region is under threat today, Prabhu said that the countries of the region should look to jointly address issues such as increasingly salinity of land. He also called for closer cooperation to deal with issues concerning climate change and environmental degradation.
Prabhu, who was also Environment Minister under the Bajpai Government , said that agriculture is the main victim of climate change and has been a major threat. “ We need to work together to face this challenge. Modern science and tradtional knowledge must be clubbed togather to preserve our biodiversity and climate,” he added.
Prabhu laid emphasis on the need for deep regional cooperation in water management , energy development, especially renewables like hydropower, wind energy, etc. He cited the example of how Bhutan is now exporting hydropower to India in a win-win arrangement. He also urged the governments in South Asia to promote the documentation of traditional knowledge, especially with respect to biodiversity.
He highlighted that potential of growth in South Asia is higher than rest of Asia. South Asia is today the fastest growing region in the world with average growth expected to be about 7 per cent in 2016.