Securing India’s Food and Water Security
Unfortunately, the farmer who provides us with food has children who are starving, and he wants to take his own life. I hang my head in shame about this. There are many reasons why this happening, but one of the biggest problems is the depletion of water resources and soil. We were able to provide nourishment to this country’s population because we had the most fabulous soil. We could grow what we wanted for twelve months of the year. But this soil is depleting very rapidly today.
Whatever crop you grow – let’s say ten tons of sugarcane – essentially, you have removed ten tons of soil. It has to be put back in some form. But nothing is going back because the only way soil can replenish itself is through green cover and animal droppings. But all our trees are gone. On top of that, we are slaughtering our animals and exporting them to other countries. Without animals and trees, there is no way you can maintain soil quality. We have seriously neglected this in the last few decades and 25% of the country is headed towards becoming a desert.
Another aspect is that our rivers are depleting at such a rate that what have been perennial sources of water for millions of years, are becoming seasonal in one generation. The Cauvery already does not reach the ocean for almost three months in a year and two states are at war for this depleting river. The Krishna does not reach the ocean for almost four to five months. This is happening everywhere in the country. We can handle all other uncertainties, but if we run out of water and the ability to generate food for our population, we will have a serious calamity on our hands.
The simplest solution for this is that for every river, we create a minimum of one kilometer tree cover on both sides. This ensures that when it rains, soil will hold moisture and replenish the rivers gradually throughout the year. People think because of water there are trees. No, because of trees there is water. So, where it is government land, forest trees must come up. Where it is farmers’ lands, it is not fair to ask a poor farmer who is struggling for his livelihood to save the planet. So we have an economic plan – with a significant ecological consequence – where farmers’ incomes can be more than doubled in five to six years if we do this in an organized way. All farmers along the riversides should get five years of subsidy to shift from regular crops to horticulture and tree-based farming. If we create trees and there are animals and animal waste, the soil and rivers will be replenished.
Towards making this happen, we are preparing a policy recommendation to offer to the government. And we are organizing the Rally for Rivers campaign where from September 3 to October 2, I will personally drive from Kanyakumari to Himalayas, to create awareness in the country that our rivers are dying. I am covering 16 states with major events along the way. Several Chief Ministers and Governors have confirmed their participation. At Delhi, we will present the policy recommendation to the government.
I beseech all of you to participate in this in whatever way you can. When I say all of you, I mean everyone who consumes water. To have our rivers flowing, to leave this land rich and well is the best gift we can offer to the future generations.