New Delhi: The condition of soil in India is deteriorating at a rapid pace and needs urgent attention to prevent further damage, said Greenpeace Thursday, urging the government to establish a National Ecological Fertilisation Mission to provide subsidies for ecological fertilisers.
The group released a report "Of Soils, Subsidies and Survival", based on social audits conducted on the soil health management policies and schemes in selected districts of Assam, Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab from July to November last year.
It also surveyed 1,000 farmers (200 each from a selected district in each state) to bring out their perceptions and observations on soil health and also to understand the impact of soil health management policies in these locations.
The report was released by journalist-turned-film director Anusha Rizvi who said: "Our farmers have been practicing eco-friendly techniques to enrich soil, using materials produced from their farm itself. But due to chemical-intensive farming and its aggressive promotion, our farmers have become dependent on external resources. This, along with natural resource degradation, is leading them to a dire situation."
Greenpeace said the report concludes that indiscriminate chemical fertiliser usage, "catalyzed by a lenient subsidy policy and neglect of ecological fertilisation is posing a threat to soil health and future food security of the country".
It noted while the central government spent Rs.49,980 crore during 2009-10 to promote chemical fertilisers, the total amount spent on the other flagship schemes that has components to promote ecological fertilisation is only Rs.5,374 crore, only one-tenth of the amount.
"The soil is in very poor health but we have not yet reached the stage where we have lost it completely. Even now farmers can reclaim their soil by shifting away from chemical fertilizers to ecological fertilisation, which will not only fix the problems in their soil but also provide sustained production," Greenpeace India campaigner and report co-author Gopikrishna SR said.
Scientist and co-author OP Rupela said that ecological fertilisers are natural, environment friendly and in most cases, farmers can themselves grow these or produce these on their farm, which in itself can improve agricultural productivity and generate livelihood opportunities in rural India.
The report said only 1 percent of the farmers surveyed received any kind of government support for practising ecological fertilisation and 98 percent of the surveyed farmers were ready to use organic fertilisers if these are subsidised and made easily available.
"We hope that the government will take note of the situation and allocate sufficient funds in the budget for the promotion of ecological fertilisation and also make provision for the same in the Twelfth Five Year Plan as well," demanded Gopikrishna.