India can utilize climate change and the global economic crisis as opportunities to forge research alliances and secure a leadership position in the Research and Development sector, according to Dr.K. Kasturirangan, Member, (Science), Planning Commission.
In a paper presented in absentia at a session on Science and Technology Challenges of the 21st century - National Perspective at the 97th Indian Science Congress which began here on Sunday, he said the country could also leverage its strong position in affordable health care to emerge a frontrunner.
Mr. Kasturirangan stressed the need to provide science and technology inputs in select areas like solar energy research in the 12th Plan. He also called for engaging the public and private sectors in R&D activities and provide business models for growth. “Teamwork and partnership should emerge out of the strategy”, he said, addressing a packed hall at the main venue of the Science Congress.
Mr. Kastruirangan said the stage was set for India to emerge as a major economic power. “As the country enters centrestage, it is necessary to plan the path to prosperity”. He reminded scientists that the science and technology sector would have to serve the rising aspirations of the people.
He emphasized the importance of balancing ‘Discovery Science’ that essentially works towards securing a leadership position for India with ‘Solution Science’ that contributes to the improvement of living standards by solving socially relevant problems like food, water and energy security, public health and hygiene, migration of talent and excessive urbanization.
Mr. Kasturirangan said the inadequate linkage between the academic, research and industrial sectors, an ageing institutional framework and S&T manpower base, weak innovation ecosystem and poor coupling between technology and trade were major challenges.
Noted agricultural scientist, M.S. Swaminathan, who spoke on sustainable food security in the era of climate change, warned that the rain fed wheat yield in India could decline by 44 per cent in the year 2050 if adaptation measures were not taken. “As much as 50 per cent of India’s wheat- growing areas may be classified as heat- stressed, lower potential areas. For every one degree Celsius rise in mean temperature, the wheat loss is estimated to be of the order of six million tonnes per year. Apart from enhanced impact of pests, diseases and weeds, wheat crop could also be hit by poor quality and low nutrient value.
Mr.Swaminathan said food and water security would be the greatest victims of climate change. Community- based systems like gene bank, seed bank, grain bank and common water resources would help to tide over the problem. He proposed a national grid of 50 modern silos to store one million tonnes of food grains.
Highlighting the need for a holistic programme to conserve dwindling biodiversity, he said the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation had launched a project to conserve 105 threatened plant species.
He said climate risk management research should focus on alternate cropping strategies and seed reserves as well as market pricing. Farmers should be assured of remunerative prices.
Mr. Swaminathan said the 21st century would be marked by eco- technology powered food and water security.