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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 12 December 2023

  1. Harvest the Odisha Story to Ensure Food Security
  2. Soil Pollution can Lead to a Major Catastrophe


Context:

As global leaders convene for COP28, the increasingly dire consequences of the climate crisis cast a somber shadow over the planet’s future, jeopardizing peace and prosperity. Unchecked climate change is anticipated to lead to a 20% increase in hunger and malnutrition, while global warming is expected to cause a 21% decline in food productivity.

Relevance:

GS3-

  • Environment
  • Food Security

Mains Question:

With climate change threatening global food productivity, Odisha’s efforts in climate­ proofing its agricultural system have resulted in a unique development model. Examine if this model can be applied to the whole of India in order to achieve food security. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Background: State of Food Insecurity in India:

Global Hunger Index 2023 Findings:

  • India is positioned at 111th among 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index, indicating a severe level of hunger.
  • In comparison, neighboring countries like Pakistan (102nd), Bangladesh (81st), Nepal (69th), and Sri Lanka (60th) have achieved better rankings than India.
  • India’s GHI score for 2023 is 28.7, falling into the “serious” category on the GHI Severity of Hunger Scale.

State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2023 Findings:

  • Mumbai Case Study: The report highlights a specific case study in Mumbai, where the cost of meals has surged by an alarming 65% in just five years. Conversely, salaries and wages have only seen an increase of 28%-37% during the same period.
  • Global Comparisons: A comparison between India and other countries in the report reveals that, although the cost of a healthy diet in India remains relatively low, it remains unattainable for a significant portion of the population due to income disparities. In 2021, 74% of Indians could not afford a healthy diet.

The Tale of Odisha:

  • Against the backdrop of a deepening global food crisis, exacerbated by the escalating climate crisis, heightened conflicts, and distressed livelihoods, Odisha’s transformative journey is gaining recognition as a model and source of inspiration for establishing food security based on principles of equity and sustainability.
  • Odisha’s narrative revolves around three specific themes in the current context: the state’s enhancement of food security through the transformation of agriculture via a community-driven approach, and the establishment of resilience to climate impacts.

Agricultural Revolution in Odisha:

Achievements:

  • Over the last two decades, Odisha has undergone a significant shift from relying on rice imports from other states and struggling to make ends meet before the 2000s to achieving its highest recorded food grain production of 13.606 million tonnes in 2022.
  • Two noteworthy aspects characterize this transformation: a majority of farmers are small/marginal, and productivity has increased despite a stable crop area.
  • The primary crop, rice, has seen a threefold increase in average yield over the past two decades. In 2000-01, the average yield was 10.41 quintals per hectare, soaring to 27.30 quintals per hectare by 2020-21.
  • Once dubbed the “land of hunger,” Kalahandi district has now become Odisha’s rice bowl, as shared by Odisha’s Chief Minister at the United Nations World Food Programme headquarters.

Initiatives that have helped Odisha:

The primary focus has been on empowering small and marginal farmers to increase their income, directly contributing to fortifying their food security and establishing resilient livelihoods. Key initiatives such as the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) flagship scheme and the dissemination of scientific crop management practices, both through conventional and digital extension methods, have led to increased cultivation of non-paddy crops, while paddy cultivation has decreased. Additionally, schemes like the Odisha Millet Mission have played a crucial role in diversifying crops and promoting climate resilience.

Social Protection

Achievements:

  • Owing to consistent advancements in the agricultural sector, Odisha has become a surplus state in paddy production and ranks as the fourth most significant contributor to the Food Corporation of India’s paddy reserves.
  • According to the 2020-21 statistics, Odisha contributes 9% of India’s total rice production, accounting for 4.22% of the country’s overall food grain production.

Initiatives that have helped Odisha:

  • The collaboration between the United Nations World Food Programme and the Government of Odisha has spurred innovative pilots aimed at enhancing food and nutrition security programs.
  • Examples include the use of biometric technology in the Targeted Public Distribution System in the remote Rayagada district in 2007 and rice fortification in Gajapati district.
  • In the 2022 State Ranking Index for the National Food Security Act by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, Odisha emerged as the top-ranked state nationwide.
  • The WFP works in conjunction with the Government of Odisha on initiatives related to food security, livelihood, and climate resilience.

Resilience and Sustainability

  • Given its geographical location and specific environmental conditions, Odisha faces heightened vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
  • This susceptibility has the potential to disrupt existing growth strategies and worsen poverty, posing risks to lives, livelihoods, assets, and infrastructure.
  • In response, Odisha has proactively devised a comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan to tackle these challenges, encompassing various sectors such as agriculture, coastal zone protection, energy, fisheries and animal resources, forests, health, industries, mining, transport, and urban and water resources.
  • Formulated by a team of experts from diverse departments and incorporating input from civil society, this plan assigns responsibilities for implementation to various departments and agencies, overseen by a committee led by the Chief Secretary.
  • The approach to climate resilience is evolving from the grassroots level. The Crop Weather Watch Group holds weekly meetings, conducts field visits, and engages in video conferences to monitor the crop program.
  • This proactive monitoring enables authorities to take necessary measures during adverse weather conditions like cyclones, floods, and droughts, which frequently affect the state.
  • At the district level, officials from allied departments undertake crop planning, considering the agro-climatic zone.
  • Farmers are embracing climate-resilient cultivation practices, including integrated farming, zero-input-based natural farming, cultivation of non-paddy crops, improved water management, utilization of water-saving devices, e-pest surveillance, and the adoption of large-scale farm mechanization with women-friendly, drudgery-reducing implements.

Conclusion:

Odisha’s transformative journey, transitioning from scarcity in food grains to surplus production, reflects sustained efforts in climate-proofing its agricultural system, diversifying crops, safeguarding the interests of smallholders, and ensuring food and nutrition security for the vulnerable. This journey serves as a distinctive development model for other states, especially in the face of the challenges posed by global climate change.



Context:

Soil and water are vital components crucial for sustaining life on Earth, encompassing human existence. Regrettably, the present generation is causing harm to this life-sustaining resource. Development projects and ascetic practices have led to the conversion of fertile agricultural lands into flats and gardens with exotic plants.

Relevance:

GS3- Environment- Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Mains Question:

What is the significance of soil as a natural resource? Drawing the link between soil and water pollution, suggest a way forward strategy to effectively deal with it. (10 Marks, 150 Words)

Significance of Soil as a Resource:

  • Soil serves as the medium that supports various living organisms, with every evolved religion emphasizing its significance.
  • In the Vedic civilization, soil was revered as Mother Earth, with the Atharva Veda featuring a prayer to Prithvi, the Earth, seeking the swift development of what is unearthed.
  • India, in particular, holds a unique veneration for vegetation, trees, animals, and soils, discouraging the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides to avoid harm to the beneficial nutrients and microorganisms within the soil.
  • The Earth, with its rich biodiversity, forms the foundation for all living organisms.

Degradation of Soil:

  • Soil, a fundamental resource for agriculture, providing essential nutrients and a medium for plant growth, faces challenges such as erosion, loss of topsoil, and degradation, impacting soil fertility and crop yields.
  • Chemical fertilizers and pesticides further destroy the essential microorganisms in the soil.
  • The connection between soil and water health is intricate, with pollution from anthropogenic activities eventually reaching the soil through water.
  • Unfortunately, soil is often taken for granted, with the disposal of solid waste, plastics, and toxic chemicals, as well as burning waste on its surface without consideration for its biodiversity.
  • Soil pollution carries significant ecological costs, including adverse effects on human health when polluted soil is used for agriculture.
  • Contaminated soil typically leads to lower crop yields and exacerbates erosion issues. Addressing soil pollution is crucial for ecosystem health, sustainable agriculture, and human well-being.
  • Adopting sustainable land management practices and collectively reducing pollution sources are essential steps in mitigating the impacts of soil pollution. Healthy soils also play a role in carbon sequestration, aiding in climate change mitigation.

Way Forward:

  • Material Reuse: Instead of discarding items such as glass containers, plastic bags, paper, and fabric, they can be reused at home, reducing the generation of solid waste and minimizing pollution.
  • Material Recycling and Recovery: Paper, various types of plastics, and glass are recyclable materials that can be collected and processed for reuse.
  • Reforestation: Restoring forest and grass cover can mitigate land loss and soil erosion, playing a crucial role in preventing the creation of wastelands and reducing the occurrence of floods.
  • Soil Improvement Techniques: Practices like crop rotation or mixed cropping contribute to enhancing soil fertility, providing sustainable approaches to agriculture.
  • Effective Solid Waste Management: It is essential to employ proper strategies for managing the disposal of solid waste, ensuring that waste is handled, treated, and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

Conclusion:

Destructive practices, such as deforestation for agricultural expansion or transforming agricultural lands for development, stem from an erroneous belief that nature exists solely to fuel economic growth. It is crucial to understand that the economy is a subsidiary of ecology, and the ongoing conflict with nature ultimately results in humanity being on the losing side. A more harmonious approach that respects and preserves nature is essential for the long-term well-being of both ecosystems and human societies.


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