Green Revolution brought a quantum jump in the food production in Haryana, but its side effects cannot be ignored. The excessive application of agrochemicals has deteriorated soil fertility while over consumption of groundwater has depleted the water table alarmingly. MOHD MUSTAQUIM reports on the situation and brings the possible future course of action
Began in the 1960s, Green Revolution played a significant role in making India self-sufficient in food production. Earlier dependent on food imports to feed the huge population, the country started exporting foodgrains in 1982. In this remarkable journey, Punjab and Haryana played a major role and became food basket of the country.
The efforts made during Green Revolution brought a quantum jump in the food production in Haryana. The average current rice production in the State is 3,256 kg per hectare, higher than the national average of 2,416 kg per hectare.
Similarly, wheat production in the State stands at 4,722 kg per hectare as compared to the national average of 3,145 kg per hectare.
In a desperation to take the country out of the foot-in-the-mouth situation, sustainable management of natural resources such as soil and water left behind.
Consequently, over the decades, after excessive exploitation of groundwater and non judicious application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides have harmed the water availability and soil health alarmingly. It has further deteriorated the food quality and affected the health of farmers, consumers and environment.
The degradation in soil fertility and depletion of groundwater have now pushed the policymakers and agriculture scientists to come up with new and innovative ways of farming with sustainable management of natural resources.
Depleting Natural Resources
According to a study, ‘Haryana – Developing Sustainable Agricultural Value Chain’, jointly conducted by Assocham, NABARD and Creative Agri Solution, water table in Haryana is depleting 0.33 meter every year.
Commenting on this situation, Om Prakash Dhankar, Minister of Agriculture, Haryana, says, “Since the beginning of Green Revolution, we have been exploiting underground water more than the water we get from rain. We consume one crore acre feet of ground water every year while only 60 lakh acre feet water gets recharged in a situation of normal monsoon. Thus, there’s gap of 40 lakh acre feet every year. The groundwater is like a bank balance, we can extract the amount only which we recharge. Otherwise, it would be finished. The water table is depleting 0.33 meters every year.”
According to the study, besides water table depletion, 3,766 square km area in the State is underlain by groundwater, 24 per cent of well have fluoride levels outside the maximum permissible level of 0.05 mg per litre. In 2012-13, Haryana’s total fertiliser consumption was 207.56 kg per hectare, next to only Punjab’s 250.19 kg per hectare.
The market dynamics favour large scale cultivation of water intensive crop paddy (rice). According to Ashok Gulati, former Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), to produce one kg rice in Punjab, the farmers have to consume approximately 5,000 litres of water while it is 3,000 litre in West Bengal and Assam. If we are exporting rice, we are actually exporting quantum of water.
When asked about the crop diversification from water intensive paddy in a water deficient State, the agriculture minister says, “Until farmers do not get better prices for other crops, we cannot ask them for crop diversification. But yes, we are working on the varieties which can consume lesser water.”
Around 50 per cent of the total geographical area of the State is severely affected with the problems of soil erosion, alkalinity, salinity and water logging.
The cost of production has increased as more and more inputs are required to maintain productivity. Farmers have done additional investments in irrigation due to the declining water table. These issues are making it difficult to remain agriculture economically viable for the farmers.
Despite the fact, agriculture is no longer remunerative for the farmers, it is the backbone the State’s economy and for the 25 million people of Haryana.
Thus, there is a need to think beyond with a prime focus on sustainable management of soil and water along with the complications of climate change.
There is a need to evolve integrated value chain from farm to fork. There should be focus on food quality too. Higher usage of agro chemicals certainly harms the health of the farmers as well as consumers. Thus, there is a need to give special focus on these three aspects.
Water and soil management are crucial for agriculture sector.Rather than pouring excessive chemical fertilisers for higher yield, there should be soil testing labs accessible to each and every farmer. And then, fertilisers can be recommended as per the need of the crop.
The Agriculture Minister of Haryana himself admits that 35 year old canals system is leaking out one third of water meant for irrigation. Thus, the Manohar Lal Khattar Government which has four more years should come out with innovative technologies which can minimise the wastage of water.
Further, the Government needs to diversify the crop pattern from high water consuming rice to lesser water intensive crops. The cash crops such as fruits and vegetables can be good options for better water management through micro irrigation system. It would not happen overnight. Convincing farmers would be a challenging job. The government will have to find the change agents within the farming community. Gram Panchayats, self-help-groups and progressive farmers can help achieve the goals. Farmers are already facing challenge of water scarcity. Thus, over a period of time with concentrated efforts, they would understand and will bring diversification to their fields.
Though the foodgrain production has seen a quantum jump, India still needs to evolve the sustainable post-harvest management system. There have been issues with minimum support price (MSP) as agriculture experts have been alleging that MSP could not keep pace with the increasing agricultural cost. The MSP, meant for if the farmers do not get good prices in the market, their produce would be procured by public as well as private sector agencies in a minimum support price.
However, over a period of time, the minimum support price turned to be the maximum price paid to the farmers. Further, there have been reports of distress sales.
To make the agricultural practices sustainable for the farmers, these kinds of situations must be controlled. Citing an example of sugarcane value chain, the Minister says, “Sugar mills are on the top of the sugar value chain while farmers are at the bottom. Thus, sugar mills should think of the benefits of the farmers as well. If farmers’ benefits are not taken care of, they won’t be able to produce cane which would further hit the benefits of the millers. Similarly, the benefits of people sitting at the bottom of every value chain have to be taken care by the people sitting on the top of the value chain. Everywhere the government cannot come to rescue the farmers.”
To strengthen the agricultural value chain, the State government has taken a few measures. In the first phase with the assistance of National Horticulture Mission, Haryana is going to establish cold chains, ripening chambers, grading, sorting and packaging facilities at 11 locations. The Minister emphasises on setting up agro processing units at the villages which can be created as local brands.
Having played a lead role in the Green Revolution, the State has potential to lead the country in developing sustainable agricultural value chains meeting the quality requirements of the international markets. The State can emerge as the leader in adopting climate smart agriculture. It can emerge as the leading State for exports of high value agriculture focusing on horticulture, dairy products, mushroom along with other crops using protected cultivation.