Bihar can save money, livelihoods, health & ecology

Move away from chemical fertilizers: says Greenpeace report - Living Soils campaign launched in Bihar

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Press release - March 14, 2013
Patna, 14- March-2013: The state of Bihar needs to move away from chemical fertilizers to save money, livelihoods, health, ecology and to sustain farming in the State, according to a Greenpeace India report, launched today. The report titled "Fertilizer, Fuel and Food: win-win options for Bihar" captures the findings of research conducted by Greenpeace along with local organizations in five districts of Bihar namely Khagaria, Madhepura, Muzaffarpur, Nalanda and Patna last year.

Expenses on chemical fertilizers, coming up to around 25% of the total cost of cultivation, constitute a significant expenditure incurred by the farmers in the State. The report reveals that from 2010-11 to 2011-12, the price that Bihar farmers had to pay for chemical fertilizers increased between 20% and 45%", leading to additional burden for farmers who are already reeling under increasing cost of cultivation and financial insecurity.

The study also revealed that around 70% of the nitrogen chemical fertilizer applied to Bihar farms might be lost, with both monetary and environmental impacts. Specifically about 71% and 64% of the Nitrogen applied to rice and wheat is roughly estimated to be not recovered in the harvested crop, and thus lost to water or atmosphere, with only a small proportion remaining in the soil. Considered in financial terms, the above loss represents an effective financial loss of 1,462 Rupees/hectare, as per the recorded data from farmers of the 5 districts.

Moreover these nitrogen fertilizers contaminate drinking water and might cause serious health impacts such as blue-baby syndrome (methemoglobinemia) and cancer.

"Our study revealed that nitrate levels in ground water wells on farms showed pollution from nitrogen fertilizers. In Nalanda 65% of wells showed some degree of nitrate contamination. Although at present nitrate pollution is not above levels currently considered unsafe for human consumption, continuing with this trend of applying heavy doses of nitrogen fertilizers can lead to serious drinking water pollution", said Dr Reyes Tirado, Sr. Scientist, Greenpeace Research laboratories, University of Exeter, UK and lead author of the report.

"Ecological fertilization and farming offers solutions for addressing issues related to cooking fuel, energy access, waste disposal and sanitation in rural areas. Hence it is important to move away from a chemical paradigm to ecological farming" said Pankaj Bhushan, National Co-convener of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).

"With the advancement of the New Green revolution in Eastern India, Bihar needs to adopt a holistic mission mode approach to promote ecological fertilization and farming practices with adequate funding to avoid an ecological disaster, as witnessed in the first Green revolution belts of Punjab and Haryana. Also, this initiative can yield multiple benefits for the state." Said Ishteyaque Ahmed, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

"The report release also marked the launch of our Living Soils campaign in Bihar. The campaign aims to save soil, a basic natural resource that supports life on earth, from harmful impacts of chemicals. This year we will organize a series of events in different parts of the state to strengthen support for holistic soil health improvement", Ishteyaque added.

Greenpeace recommends:-

1) Launch of a State Ecological Farming and Fertilization Mission, converging relevant Central and State Government policy instruments and by enabling a dedicated institutional mechanism with grassroots presence. The Mission should find synergy with livelihoods, bio-energy, regeneration of common pool resources and eco-sanitation initiatives in the state.

2) Create School of Agro-ecological Systems Analysis in the two Agricultural Universities in the State with regional, block level holistic research and extension programmes.

3) Enable effective district level planning to ensure that 25% of RKVY funds are earmarked to promote ecological farming and fertilization to start with and an objective to progressively raise the amount to 50 per cent of the funds by the end of five year plan period.

4) Set targets for systematically replacing chemical fertilizers with ecological fertilization during the five year plan period.

Notes to the editor

Please find below the link to the report-

For more information, please contact,

Ishteyaque Ahmed, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India, Mobile: +91 8084507888; Munna Jha, Media officer, Greenpeace India, Mobile: +91 9570099300