Impact on Agriculture

Impact on Agriculture

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Highlights of the report named—“Veg or Non-Veg: India at the Crossroads”, Brighter Green (2012), 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.”



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