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Indian agriculture can meet climate change challenges with available technology
Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) Director Dr. B Venkateswarlu asserted available technology in the country will be sufficient to meet the challenges of climate change in agriculture. However, he cautioned that the performance of Indian agriculture in terms of growth in productivity will be put to rigorous test in future due to climate change and variability, unless policy initiatives are taken in long-term.

He inaugurated the day-long seminar on Climate Change - Impact on Agriculture in India, organized by Liberty Institute, Social Cause and Friedrich Naumen Foundation for Freedom at National Institute for Nutrition. According to the Director, all efforts should be made to disseminate available technology to the farmers and fields.

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He observed that the high inter and intra-seasonal variability in rainfall distribution, extreme temperatures (hot and cold) and rainfall are causing crop damages and enormous losses to farmers. He pointed out that every year, various parts of the country gets affected by droughts, floods, cyclones, hailstorms, frost and other climatic events. Globally, the last decade witnessed an increase in occurrence of storms and floods, severe droughts and forest fires, emergence of new pests and diseases.

Dr Venkateswarlu suggested that judicious natural resource management in vulnerable areas such as coastal zones, drought and flood prone and hilly regions would be the first step towards promoting climate resilient agriculture. He said efficient use of adapted germ-plasm and resource conservation based technologies with focus on water conservation and increasing crop water use efficiency are essential pillars of climate resilient agriculture in the country.

He felt adoption of new crop varieties and innovative agricultural practices can neutralise the impact of changes in temperature and water availability, besides improved weather forecasting and better communications can assist in contingency planning. He also said education, training and efficient rural extension services can help in adaptation at the community level.  In other words, investments on physical and social capital are required to neutralize the impacts of climate change on agriculture.

Dr Venkateswarlu said that National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) launched in 2011 by ICAR aims at to enhance resilience of Indian agriculture to climate change and climate vulnerability through strategic research and technology demonstration. ICAR proposes to move forward by strengthening research and development on climate resilient agriculture to minimize risks to farmers and reduce the impact of year to year climate variability on food production at national level, he added.

Liberty Institute Director Barun Mitra, speaking on theme of the seminar said the scientific debate has intensified on the nature and possible causes underlying changing climate. Questions have arisen over the significance of man-made greenhouse gases in stimulating global warming.  

Stating that the institute has been following the global warming debate for over a decade now, he said now it has been organizing a series of conferences and seminars across India, bringing together scholars to dispassionately discuss the various facets of climate science, science policy, and the various economic policy options.

He felt Indian agriculture has successfully come over losses of adverse climate conditions, but the issues bothering farmers are debt-trap and prices. Stating that still 56 per cent of people are dependent on agriculture, but their share in GDP is a mere 18 per cent, he said agriculture sector is synonymous with poverty in India.

Dr S Jeevananda Reddy, Fellow, Andhra Pradesh Academy of Sciences, said agriculture production is  affected by agriculture technology and pollution components and not to global warming as crops adapt to temperature regimes, which is evident from extremes in temperature given under climate normal data. He recalled Dr. M. S. Swaminathan observed that Global warming will affect agriculture productivity adversely in regions, where the food needs are the greatest.

He suggested traditional agriculture that includes animal husbandry used to provide nutrition security. With the new agriculture technology this is affected and thus providing polluted food (wheat and rice) even under PDS. Also, adulterated food material is now flooding the market without any control.

Dr.D.Suryakumari, Director of Centre for People's Forestry, said that the changes that are taking place in external and internal environments of the forest communities especially the tribals, and noted that the variations in climate have added to their woes. This is because, she said their livelihood means are connected either to forest produce or agriculture and or wage labour, which again is agriculture labour to a large extent and it is a fact that both agriculture and forest produce do get influenced by variations in climate or the climate change phenomenon, which is widely discussed.

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