Karnataka

Study points to threat to food security in Chamarajanagar

‘Need to recognise gravity of ecological issues beyond global warming, GHG emissions’

A study of the status of natural resources, agriculture and “climate emergency” in Chamarajanagar district, one of the arid regions of southern Karnataka, have recorded developments that the researchers say could “exacerbate” the impact of climate change.

Members of the collective Punarchith, which focuses on evolving alternative perspectives and activities related to education and environment, presented “A barren future?”, findings of their ongoing study, here on Tuesday, to stress on the need to recognise the gravity of ecological issues beyond global warming and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions while recognising regional specificities.

The “action paper” pointed out the deterioration of existing waterbodies and soil that is deficient in zinc, boron, and organic carbon in the drought-hit district. Rainfall data from 1901 to 2014 showed that though there was no significant change in the mean rainfall, as in the total volume of available water, low intensity events (10mm/day) were rising across Chamarajanagar while medium and high intensity events were decreasing. At the same time, annual rainy days were increasing due to non-seasonal rain events, the study said.

The temperature, on the other hand, shows an increase of 0.02 degree Celsius a year, while the trend for Karnataka and India is 0.01 degree Celsius a year. Surface temperature was increasing at a higher rate than Karnataka and all India average trend rates, they said.

Groundwater levels between 1995 and 2018 in Chamarajanagar taluk showed a sharp decline from 15 ft to 20 ft in 1995 to 70 ft to 75 ft in 2017, Punarchith members said.

According to the study, Soliga people identified at least 125 species of flora that were locally critically-endangered or extinct, many of these important food plants for both humans and animals and several of medicinal value. This in turn had led to increase in man-animal conflict due to habitat loss and other reasons, the members said.

Punarchith members also pointed to cropping pattern changes between 1960 and 2017, a marked shift from growing cereals and millets to fruits, vegetables, coconuts and sugar crops, mostly to cater to metropolitan markets.

The new agricultural models, which had ushered in clear-felling for agriculture, chemical inputs, financialisation, and commercialisation of agriculture, use of heavy machinery and tubewell, resulting in the farm being used intensively for a few years until it becomes infertile. This has had an impact on small and marginal farmers through integration into the “dominant system”, indebtedness, migration, and food insecurity (buying what they used to grow). As coping mechanisms, they are abandoning land, leasing it out or selling them, the study said.

A.R. Vasavi, trustee, Punarchith, pointed to a “lack of political engagement” on these issues, with climate change or related topics failing to find mention in any of the recent elections. They are advocating alternative policies and programmes to the dominant system, coordinated policy interventions, democratising access to data, and decentralising conceptualisation and implementation of programmes as the way forward.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:38:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/study-points-to-threat-to-food-security-in-chamarajanagar/article30332575.ece

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