Context:

Agriculture contributes significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions release by cattle and from animal waste.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution, Conservation of Environment, Climate Change), GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dairy Sector and Environmental Damage
  2. Other issues with dairy sector according to activists
  3. Background to the Dairy Sector in India

Dairy Sector and Environmental Damage

  • The three major greenhouse gasses (GHG) emitted from agri-food systems, are methane (CH₄), nitrous oxide (N₂O) and carbon dioxide (CO₂).
  • Agriculture contributes approximately 16% of India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which is released by cattle during dairy farming.
  • Methane from animal waste contributes about 75% of the total GHG emissions of the dairy sector.
  • With this increasing demand for dairy, there is growing pressure on natural resources, including freshwater and soil.
  • With an increasing demand for dairy, there is growing pressure on natural resources, including freshwater and soil. Unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as wetlands, and forests.
  • Multinational companies such as Nestle and Danone have been accused of promoting water-intensive dairy industry in Punjab and the neighbouring states, which is fast depleting groundwater.
  • The alarming loss of biodiversity is attributed to water- and energy-intensive crops needed to feed the cattle.

Other issues with dairy sector according to activists

  • Despite guidelines for appropriate handling of cattle, cruel practices continue unabated to boost production efficiencies as demand for dairy and meat continues to grow.
  • Animal exploitation through animal farming, destruction of natural habitats, livestock-associated deforestation, hunting and trading of wildlife are the leading cause of zoonotic diseases caused by germs that spread between animals and humans.
  • Milk and milk products in India are not free from adulteration. A recent Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) report revealed the presence of aflatoxin M1 and hormone residues in them beyond permissible limits through unregulated feed and fodder. This led to a variety of lifestyle diseases in humans.

Background to the Dairy Sector in India

  • Currently, India is the world’s largest milk producer, with 22% of global production.
  • The dairy sector accounts for 4.2% of the national gross domestic product.
  • Dairy sector is the second-largest employment sector after agriculture in India. Harvesting animals for dairy and animal-based products in India is a major source of livelihood for 150 million dairy farmers.
  • Harvesting animals for dairy and animal-based products is crucial for food security, poverty alleviation and other social needs in a developing nation like India.
  • India had transitioned from a milk-deficient country to the largest producer of milk globally, thanks to the White Revolution.
  • The White Revolution in India was the brainchild of Dr Verghese Kurein. Under him many important institutions were established like the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).
  • The White Revolution was started by the NDDB in the 1970s and the bedrock of the revolution has been the village milk producers’ cooperatives.
  • Operation Flood (White Revolution) helped dairy farmers direct their own development, placing control of the resources they create in their own hands. It also helped India become the largest producer of milk in the world in 2016-17.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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