Highlights of the report named—“Veg or Non-Veg: India at the Crossroads”, Brighter Green (2012), http://www.brightergreen.org/files/india_bg_pp_2011.pdf are as follows:
•To satisfy domestic consumption, and with an eye on export markets, India has joined the livestock revolution. It has a large and growing population of farmed animals and intensification in how they are produced, in the Western mould, is underway. The government also has ambitions for India to assume a more significant role internationally. “As the country’s livestock industry is changing, India attempts to become a key player in the global meat market,” states India’s National Meat and Poultry Processing Board, established by the government in 2009.
•Investment in Indian agribusinesses by U.S. and European animal protein and feed producers is increasing, and the government is encouraging this trend. In 2011, it announced a new policy: foreign direct investment for intensive livestock operations with 100 percent foreign ownership would be welcome.
•Marked increases in India’s meat, egg, and dairy production have considerable impacts on India’s environment, food security, and social and economic equity, as well as the global climate.
•The effects of global climate change are expected to hit India particularly hard in the form of rising temperatures, erratic monsoon rains, more frequent and more intense droughts, flooding, cyclones, and growing water scarcity and desertification. Food production will not emerge unscathed.
* Contribution of Livestock to Climate Change
•India’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are the world’s fifth largest, after China, the U.S., the E.U., and Russia, although per capita GHG emissions are still extremely low: just 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) in 2007.
•India’s emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from livestock, particularly the enormous population of cows and buffalo, are larger than any other country’s.
•The livestock sector in 2007 produced 334 million tons of CO2 eq. Cultivation of rice, a key Indian crop, contributes just 21 percent of India’s agricultural emissions, or 70 million metric tons of CO2 eq.
•In 2009, the first India-wide study of emissions of methane from India’s livestock, conducted by scientists at India’s Space Applications Centre, found that these emissions had risen almost 20 percent between 1994 and 2003, to 11.75 million metric tons annually. Emissions have almost certainly risen further: in the four years between 2003 and 2007, India’s population of cows and buffalo increased by 21 million.
•Over a hundred-year period, methane has at least 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Calculated over a 20-year period, methane’s warming impact is much greater: 72 times that of carbon dioxide. Methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is about ten years, while carbon dioxide’s is at least a hundred years. Given its shorter lifespan, if methane emissions are lowered, the benefits would be realized sooner than for reductions in CO2.
•A lifecycle study of GHG emissions of various foods by researchers at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute found that a non-vegetarian meal including mutton (meat from lamb or sheep) emitted 1.8 times the GHGs of a vegetarian meal without dairy or eggs. The authors concluded: “Change in food habit thus could offer a possibility for GHG mitigation.”
* Likely Impacts of Climate Change
-- On Animals:
•While the livestock sector in India contributes to global warming through emissions of GHGs, it will also be impacted by climate change. Possible temperature increases in India of between 2.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2050 will add to heat stress in animals used to produce milk and affect reproduction and the amounts of milk each animal provides.
•Crossbred cows may be most vulnerable to higher temperatures. Increased temperatures and sea-level rise may also reduce the availability of land to grow feed, and result in lower crop yields and an increase in the severity and spread of animal diseases.
•U.K.-based risk-analysis firm Maplecroft placed India second in a list of 170 countries assessed for their vulnerability to the effects of climate change. “Almost the whole of India has a high or extreme degree of sensitivity to climate change, due to acute population pressure and a consequential strain on natural resources,” the assessment concluded.
-- On land and water:
•India’s livestock has grown significantly since Independence in 1947, but areas of permanent pasture and grazing land have continued to decline.
•The anticipated effects of climate change in India, such as rising heat and aridity, will reduce further the size of grazing land and make growing fodder crops, as well as maize and soybeans, more difficult.
•According to a 2009 UN report on water and development, water shortages as a result of climate change, urbanization, population growth, and the water needs of agriculture and food production, represent significant challenges to continued rapid economic growth across Asia in coming decades.
•The report notes with concern the rising consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products in fast-growing developing countries, which are, “much more water-intensive than the simpler diets they are replacing”.
•Vegetarian diets require an average of 2.6 cubic meters of water per person per day, according to a study by researcher Shama Perveen at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. The diet of an average person living in the US, containing much higher quantities of poultry, beef, and dairy, uses more than twice as much water: 5.4 cubic meters a day.
•Nearly half of India’s landmass is drought prone, according to India’s environment ministry. The monsoon is also critical for recharging groundwater, the source of 80 percent of farm irrigation and water supplies in India’s rural areas.
•By 2030, India’s water requirements will increase to 1.5 trillion cubic meters (m3) (396 trillion gallons). Agriculture in India will require a large majority of this, 1.195 billion m3 (315 billion gallons). India’s current annual water supply is 740 billion m3 (195 trillion gallons). As a result, by 2030, India’s river basins, including some with the largest human populations, including the Ganga and the Krishna, are likely to experience severe shortfalls, “unless concerted action is taken,” according to the 2030 Water Resources Group report.
* Livestock impact on Water Pollution and Energy Use
•The by-products of animal agriculture – animal wastes and run-off from pesticides and fertilizers used on feed crops – enter India’s rivers, streams, and groundwater. These organic and inorganic pollutants contribute to the contamination of an estimated 70 percent of India’s surface water and an increasing percentage of its groundwater, according to a 2009 report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
•Production of meat resulted in 3.5 million tons of wastewater in 2007. That is nearly 100 times as much wastewater as India’s sugar industry generates and 150 times more wastewater than the manufacture of fertilizer creates.
•According to India’s environment ministry, “Inadequate treatment of human and animal wastes also contributes to [the] high incidence of water-related diseases in the country.”
•Producing meat, eggs, and dairy products on a industrial scale requires electricity for lighting, heating, and cooling, and then for slaughtering, processing, packaging, and refrigeration or freezing. India faces power shortage and 40 percent of India’s households still lack electricity.
•In his speech to the World Vegetarian Congress, held in India in 1957, India’s then president, Rajendra Prasad, observed that: “[N]o doubt that within the foreseeable future, it will be impossible to increase the land under cultivation. Increase in yield per unit of land has also conceivably a limit.” He urged consideration of “whether cereals or meat can be more economically grown on the land,” and continued: “It is therefore a very lucky and fortunate coincidence that our vegetarianism, limited though it may be, reduces tremendously the pressure on land, which is already being felt in many parts of the country.”
Key findings of the study titled Assessing farm-level agricultural sustainability over a 60-year period in rural eastern India by Deepti Sharma and Shardendu Shardendu, Environmentalist (2011) 31:325–337, http://www.springerlink.com/content/0051808851j537rq/, are as follows:
•Sustainable agriculture is multi-dimensional, and is the combined product of environmental, social and economic sustainability. The area is relevant since India being an overpopulated country is in danger of facing the Malthusian catastrophe. The present study has collected social, economic and ecological data from 150 farms for 3 decades to find what has happened to agricultural sustainability overtime.
•Agricultural Sustainability Index (ASI) for rural eastern India has been prepared and used to calculate the ASI for 150 farms for three decades over a 60-year period, viz., 1950–1960, 1980–1990 and 2000–2010 for a representative Indian village of Gangapur (25deg83'N, 85deg65'E) of Bihar. The ASI was calculated using 30 variables, 10 each of social, economic and ecological sustainability. An extensive questionnaire based survey was carried out to collect the relevant data.
•Increased ecological literacy and better implementation of government policies, aiming at health, education and better scientist–farmer interactions, must target improved ASI values in coming decades, finds the study.
•The integrated ASI, prepared by the authors, based on social, economic and ecological sustainability variables, has shown improvement although marginally in 2000–2010 as compared to the previous two decades i.e. 1950–1960 and 1980–1990.
•A variety of factors affect the overall agricultural sustainability. Increase in average age of farmer has been perceived as a weakness owing to the fact that with increased age the vigour and output of the farmer decreases. With age, the farmer becomes more and more reluctant towards adopting new scientific methods.
•Social inequality is another factor impeding sustainability of agricultural practices in the study area. Social inequality is reflected by the gap between high- and low-income groups. This inequality has shown signs of decreasing over the last 60 years but still remains substantially high. Its effect on farmer psyche casts a negative effect on sustainability of agricultural practices. Moreover, resource allocation also suffers.
•Due to the location of the area under study in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains where it enjoys the advantages of fertile soils and high water table level, one can expect a higher sustainability of agro-practices in the village.
•Among local reasons of low socio-economic sustainability scores may be quoted the Zamindari system which was part of the history of the study area. Zamindari system is responsible for the low agricultural productivity of the region.
•The Zamindari Abolishment Act that was passed as early as in 1948 and the Land Reforms (Ceiling, Land Allocation and Surplus Land Acquisition) Act that was passed in 1961 have made little impact on land distribution.
•Another significant social factor limiting sustainability of agriculture in the study area is population pressure. With increasing population pressure, resource poverty is enhanced, leading to declining returns from the natural capital and complicated ownership feuds.
•Increase in average age of the farmer is among other social factors afflicting agricultural sustainability. Power crisis in the study area is again a significant limiting factor.
•The decreasing trend in agricultural biodiversity at both crop and livestock variety levels has made the ecological condition of the agro-ecosystem precarious.
•The study concludes that interaction of farmers and agricultural scientists must be made easier, frequent and enriching, and the gap between the laboratory and the agricultural field must be reduced so that ecological awareness can supplement literacy. Consolidation of landholdings must be propagated as a suitable measure to combat the problem of low-sized landholdings.