Sweet Harvest of Green Revolution by MOHD. ZEYAUL HAQUE (June 27, 2007)
In our previous entry in this column we had discussed how the fruits of the Great Green Revolution had begun to go soar in parts of India.
The question to ask now is, "Was the Green Revolution a blessing or a curse?" The emphatic answer is, "It was certainly a blessing, and it continues to be a blessing."
Minus the Green Revolution millions of people would have died or left crippled for life because of severe malnutrition.
What we are witnessing in Punjab today was anticipated well in advance. We are told that much before the Green Revolution Albert Einstein had warned the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides would destroy the soil. Even the Washington-based World Watch had predicted nearly a decade ago that the underground water in Punjab would be depleted within the next 25 years.
So, what should we do now? First, we should take care of our decaying or defunct water bodies-talaabs, wells, sagars like Osman Sagar in Hyderabad and other man-made lakes, natural lakes, hauzes and bowlies. Most of them are defunct now, all over India.
Many big water bodies near cities have been encroached upon and filled by developers to build multi-storeyed apartments and markets. In villages people using hand pumps have neglected ponds and filled up wells. Every year we are mining volumes of water which has taken thousands of years to fill. The rate of mining is hundreds of times higher than the rate of recharge.
For groundwater recharge the water bodies must be revived and all new buildings and complexes in cities must have their own rainwater harvesting system like they are having in Chennai. No building permission should be granted without such facilities. Sufficient recharge of groundwater is a major corrective measure.
We should also use sprinklers in our fields as well as drip irrigation like the Israelis and Saudis do. Thus we will save water greatly. Introduction of crops with some genes of desert plants would reduce the need of water for agricultural crops. Such genetic engineering is possible and is already a reality.
Pest-resistant plants would reduce the need for too much of pesticides, so would biological intervention like introduction of worms that don’t destroy crops but eat away pests. Neem-based pesticides and other variants will reduce the need for highly toxic pesticides (organochlorines and organophosphates). Alternative weed control measures are already known to farmers.
Some original R & D, a little bit of courage and hope, and a sound leadership can pull us out of this danger.
Mohd. Zeyaul Haque