Guarding the green wealth

AGRIULTURE AND BIODIVERSITY

DR. M.HUSSAIN SHAH WRITES ABOUT THE CURRENT AGRICULTURAL SCENARIO IN JAMMU & KASHMIR

The state has a geographical area of 24.16 lakh hectares with 22 districts, 82 tehsils, 142     community blocks, 4136 panchayats and 6652 villages with a population of 101.3 lakh, of which 76.27 lakh live in rural areas (75.19%) with a literacy rate of 55.5% only. Out of the total area, only 6.58 lakh hectares are under forest cover and another   5.82 lakh hectares under the land put to non-agricultural uses and uncultivable land. This whole land mass needs proper reclamation and land use planning in a scientific manner.  The state further has cultivable wasteland of 1.47 lakh hectares, fallow land other than current fallow as 0.27 lakh hectares. This needs to be developed under the Govt. of India’s “Haryali” concept.   Another area of concern is that out of the total cultivable area of 11.33 lakh hectares, net sown area is just 7.34 lakh hectares and area sown more than once is 3.99 lakh hectares only ( nearly 50% of the net sown area). These available land resources are to be put to maximum land use through increased crop intensity, mixed cropping, double cropping, remunerative crop combinations, multiple cropping, high yielding and short duration varieties etc.
The state though bestowed with enormous water bodies, has only 3.08 lakh hectares under all sources of irrigation (canals, tanks, wells and other sources). The data clearly indicates that nearly 60 % of the area is devoid of irrigation and most of the agricultural land is dependent on natural precipitation, which is showing a disturbing trend due to western disturbances and impact of climate change attributed to lost of forest cover, rising temperatures, glacier melt, so on and so forth.Therefore,there is an urgent need to utilize every drop of water through efficient utilization of water through development of various agri/horti/forestry models suited to various topo sequences, need and demand.
There is a need to draw an action plan for flood prone areas, drought situations, wasteland development, in-situ and ex-situ biodiversity conservation, conservation of indigenous vegetables and pragmatic programme for under utilized vegetables. There is a need to have a board comprising various specialists to draw a master plan for implementation by ngos’ and other volunteers to excel themselves as otherwise, the Govt. is already engaged and doing things in pieces and bits with out any proper monitoring system in place.
The state’s varied agro-ecological conditions and physiographic terrain have created magnificent macro and micro environments to house many hundreds of native/exotic ornamental plant species which could be developed to meet the demands of the flourishing floriculture industry. It is possible to have a particular cut/loose flower for a longer span of time by growing it in different regions. The special advantage is to serve as the “Internal off- season Market”. During summer months, there is a shortage of cut flowers in the plains of the country and the flowers produced in the hills and supplied outside the state markets for premium price particularly in Delhi as it has emerged as the biggest flower market in India. .
The need of the hour is to select an enterprise with low cost technology, thereby, less initial investment, dependence on locally available cheap raw material and job oriented for attaining economic sustainability. The mushroom cultivation can be most appropriate and viable enterprise in that it requires low cost technology, utilizes farm waste as the essential raw material, moreover, the temperate climate prevailing in the valley is quite suitable for most part of the year and electricity independent and it is possible to have two crops of mushroom in Kashmir from mid Feb to May/June and July to October/Nov, while as in plains it is possible to have only one crop. Further, the raw material in the form of agricultural waste as paddy straw, wheat straw, seed hulls, corn cobs, and industrial and house hold waste is available in plenty. Therefore, Endeavour has to be made to develop mushroom trade on a large scale with minimum investment through scientific innovations involving rural populace and unemployed youth through establishment of spawn production lab, pasteurized sub-strate units and can generate anything between Rs. 10000-15000 with at least 400 man days for his family or the society.
There has been a tremendous deterioration in water quality due to pesticide, herbicide and fungicide run off from arable land leading to pollution in the form of toxic chemicals and pollutants; increased sedimentation due to soil erosion and run off from catchment areas that accelerates filling in the water bodies, and water pollution accruing from run off of agro chemicals that cause growth of toxic algal blooms and impoverishment of aquatic biota including fish mortality. Further,, growing  menace of  red tide that has already documented by the scientists. These blooms cause rapid environmental degradation, besides, affecting the aesthetic value of fresh water bodies, such as lakes, wet lands etc.This thick algal scum interfere in the photosynthetic activity of auto trophs leading eventually to asphyxiation of animal life. There has to be a comprehensive policy to address all such problems rather than creating confusion through the involvement of numerous stake holders with out any coordination and proper monitoring and evaluation mechanism
There is a need to develop and follow the efficient irrigation model especially for high intake water for rice and during the occurrence of meteorological drought. The model should integrate intake.conveyance, regulation, measurement and application in appropriate quantities and at the right time, besides, considering critical growth stages, judicious use of water, evapo-transpiration, conveyance/application/water use efficiency.
There is an urgent need to focus attention on the impact of pollutants on various eco- systems and there friendly management, bio- diversity erosion, deforestation and climatic change, agriculture and environment, agricultural practices and aquatic resources, besides, environmental awareness. This has to be done at the grass root level starting from schools, colleges, universities and people from different walks of life, ngos, and volunteers. Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir state is the most important niche, is repository of rare, least evolved and most modern gene pool. It has rich faunal and floral diversity. The forests of J&K alone hold gene pool of more than 700 known floral species besides scores of faunal species. The state has diverse Zoo-geographical regions which are home for varied animal forms. It is also home of hundreds of medicinal, aromatic and agro-horti plants which are mostly represented by their eco-types/land races and wild relatives.
Keeping in view, the importance of biomass dependent   economy of the state, highest priority has to be given to their intensification and diversification to ensure livelihood of the people at large.

Bio-diversity & Resource Management
Tourism, which is also biomass related and biomass dependent; snow clapped lofty mountains, fresh and clean air, crystal clear water, forest flora, beautiful meadows with magnificent flowers. This character of the state needs not only to be maintained but also augmented. Therefore, highest priority has to be given to the intensification and diversification of biomass production, processing and utilization. Such a strategy would help in both conservation and utilization.
Another dimension of biodiversity is that the state hosts wild relatives of many crops, medicinal and aromatic plants. There are many ornamental and important medicinal  plants growing wild, like, aconites, anemones, burginia, inula, jogi-badshah, mallow, lilies and animals like, black-necked crain, chakor, pheasants and tragopans, hangul, ibex, markhor, snow leopard and above all the shy and cute antelope(chiru) which yields the most expensive wool used for the fabrication of world famous shahtoos.
Therefore, conservation of biodiversity in J&K, in particular would actually ensure perpetual availability of biomass which in turn would ensure the livelihood of the people at large. Therefore, the best strategy would be to harvest and utilize for economic prosperity only the annual increment of the biological capital. Further, biodiversity in the context of climate change has become more relevant and that is why, the year 2010 has been declared by the United nations General Assembly as the International year of BIODIVERSITY and community conservation has assumed greater significance and the crops on which global food security is anchored under two broad categories-climate sensitive and climate resilient crops.
For promoting conservation continuum starting with in-situ on farm conservation of land races and extending up to the cryogenic preservation under permafrost conditions has now become a reality. Therefore, it becomes imperative to regulate access to biological resources of the country for the purpose of securing suitable share, conserve and sustainable use of biodiversity, to respect and protect knowledge of local communities related to biodiversity, conservation and development of areas important for the stand point of biological diversity by declaring them as biological heritage sites. And protection and rehabilitation of threatened species and finally involvement of institutions of self government in the broad scheme of implementation.

(The author is former Director Research & Dean Faculty of Agriculture (SKUAST-K) and presently working as State Quality Monitor (MGNERGA) , J&K)

Lastupdate on : Wed, 8 Jun 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 8 Jun 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 9 Jun 2011 00:00:00 IST




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