Excessive use of chemical fertilizers is taking a toll on farms, farming and health.

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The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is taking a toll on farms, farming and health. The increasing use of chemical fertilizers in the country can be understood from the fact that at the time of independence in 1950-51, 7 lakh tonnes of chemical fertilizers were used in the country. According to a rough estimate, more than 335 lakh tonnes of chemical fertilizers are being used in the country today. In this, 75 lakh tonnes of fertilizers have to be imported. Urea affects the nitrogen cycle and affects the environment by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Actually, the root of the problem lies on the other side and that is that instead of balanced use of fertilizers, indiscriminate use of them has worsened the situation.

If we analyze the consumption of fertilizers in the country, out of 797 districts including Union Territories, only 292 districts are consuming 83 percent of the total fertilizer consumption in the country. This is serious in itself. It is not that the government is not serious about it, but in view of the ill effects of excessive use of fertilizers, the government established the Society for Conservation of Nature in 2004 to study the ill effects of excessive use of urea. Efforts by IFFCO, the world’s cooperative sector fertilizer producing cooperative society, to increase their availability and use by preparing nano fertilizers can be considered as one of the growing efforts in this direction. The Agriculture Ministries of the Center and the States have been warning about the balanced use of chemical fertilizers, but this is not enough and awareness programs are not being conducted in a truly effective manner. Today the water level in the five rivers region is decreasing rapidly. The people of Punjab have started consuming the wheat produced in Punjab in other states and using it by importing wheat from other states. Similarly, maximum cases of cancer in the country are coming from Punjab. Chemical fertilizers and poisonous pesticides are said to be the main reasons for this. What is happening is that due to fertilizers, the insects that help in soil cultivation are destroyed, whereas chemical fertilizers get washed away during rains and pollute the natural water sources like rivers etc. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in crops is adversely affecting the health of both humans and cattle.

Excessive use of chemical fertilizers is taking a heavy toll on fields, farming, health and environment today. This is not just our problem, but entire countries of the world are suffering the ill effects of the use of chemical fertilizers. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers is affecting the fertility of the land and also adversely affecting the environment. If we talk only about our country, then the figures coming out are extremely worrying as well as serious. Due to the increasing use of chemical fertilizers, 30 percent of the cultivable land in the country is on the verge of becoming barren. This figure is not out of thin air but is according to the report of the Center for Science and Environment. We are facing a situation of saturation of agricultural produce in many states including Punjab and Haryana. Along with this, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and poisonous pesticides is resulting in the spread of deadly cancer. Today cancer is becoming common in Punjab and its adjoining areas.

In fact, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the use of chemical fertilizers has increased rapidly in the countries of the world. To deal with the food crisis and to increase agricultural production, chemical fertilizers emerged as a better option. There is no doubt that due to increase in agricultural production, today the countries of the world have been able to face the food crisis. However, now almost all countries and experts are emphasizing on gradually reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Emphasis is being laid on traditional and organic farming. In India too, emphasis is being laid on organic farming and initiative has been taken to implement organic policy in 20 states. Especially the north-eastern states are being made 100% organic farming states. Among the countries of the world, Bhutan is the major country in organic farming, while Sikkim is at the top position in the world in terms of organic farming. It is also becoming clear that organic and traditional farming will have to be increased, but there is no doubt that all this cannot be done in a day, for this efforts will have to be made in a phased manner.

To avoid the ill effects of excessive use of chemical fertilizers, we will have to move forward by making a dual and far-reaching policy. On the one hand, farmers will have to be motivated to use chemical fertilizers in a planned manner only as per requirement, while on the other hand, organic and traditional farming will have to be encouraged. If necessary, more budgetary provision has to be made for this, then the government will not hesitate in considering it as a long-term investment. For this, government and non-government organizations will also have to run awareness programs. There is no doubt that to meet the increasing population and increasing demand for food grains in the country, the government will not make the mistake of completely rejecting the use of fertilizers. Lessons will have to be learned from Bangladesh’s past mistakes also. This means that the balanced use of chemical fertilizers will have to be increased in a phased manner, while alternative measures will have to be worked seriously.

-Dr. Rajendra Prasad Sharma

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