Dewas Farmers to organize first of its kind Public Hearing in Madhya Pradesh to save soils

Press release - October 5, 2010
Farmers of Bagli tehsil of Dewas district will organize first of its kind Public Hearing to save soils from harmful impacts of Chemical Fertilizers. The Public hearing, scheduled for 8th October 2010 in Pandutalab Village will review the major soil health management support systems of Central Government, basically to examine their capability to solve the soil degradation crisis . The Public hearing will follow a democratic participatory approach and will be attended by Government Agriculture officials, agriculture experts, representatives of civil society organizations, elected representatives of people including MLA and Sarpanch of various nearby villages along with other farmers.

This Public Hearing is part of “Living Soils”, a nationwide campaign launched by Greenpeace India and being run by Samaj Pragati Sahyog (SPS) and Greenpeace in Madhya Pradesh. The campaign, an attempt to highlight soil health issues and its relevance to food security, assumes significance in the context of the Central Government acknowledging2 the agrarian crisis due to soil degradation and initiating a reform in its fertilizer subsidy policy. But the new Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) policy which was brought in as part of this reform continues to support only chemical fertilizers, and hence fails in its own cause. As part of the campaign, a series of social audits have been completed in selected districts of Assam and Orissa and similar ones are now being organized in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka.

In Madhya Pradesh, a social survey1 was initiated in Bagli Tehsil of Dewas district on 18 September. Awareness programmes using local folk songs and other traditional methods were also organized in Pandutalab and nearby villages to make farmers aware about the issue. Pandutalab is located in Bagli tehsil (block) deep in the valley or ghaat-neeche and shares its larger history of economic marginalization and resource degradation. Bagli and other parts of the ghaat-neeche have large tribal pockets, interspersed with non-tribals. In Bagli, most tribals have small plots of land (1-3 acres) and they practice rainfed agriculture. As per the Government data Chemical Fertilizers usage in Dewas district is 153kg/ha during 2009-10.

“Historically there is discrimination towards rainfed agriculture. Crores2 of rupees being doled out in the name of Chemical fertilizer subsidy hardly benefits rainfed farmers, said Dev Karan Chauhan of Samaj Pragati Sahyog has said, “Dryland farmers need support for ecological fertilization which can help nurture their soil and increase its water holding capacity, he added.

“Central Government’s much hyped schemes such as Rashriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM) does nothing to save soils from degradation. Even though the Government spent Rs. 341.65 Lakhs and Rs. 359.50 Lakhs respectively under these schemes in Dewas district last year, hardly any support was provided to rejuvenate degraded soils.” said Kapil Mishra, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India. “What is more shocking is the finding from our survey that not even a single a farmer is aware of these flagship schemes of the Central Government”, he added

Apart from the direct visible impacts, manufacture and use of chemical fertilizers also contributes significantly to emissions of greenhouse gases, and thus climate change. The total emissions from the manufacture and use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers represent six per cent (3% from manufacture and 3% from usage) of India’s total emissions, comparable to sectors like cement or iron and steel industries, and to emissions from the entire road transport system4. Chemical fertilizers also contaminate drinking water5 and pose threat to human health.

Several states in the country including Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram and Uttarakhand have initiated policies to support ecological farming. But the Central Government continues to push the high external input chemical intensive model of farming, which is evident from the new NBS policy and the decision to push intensive agriculture models in the eastern states under RKVY.

Pursuing an agenda to ensure healthy soils and sustainable Agriculture production Greenpeace has been making the following demands

1. Create an alternate subsidy system that promotes ecological farming and use of organic soil amendments.

2. Shift the irrational subsidy policy for synthetic fertilizers to sustainable ecological practices in agriculture.

3. Re-focus scientific research on ecological alternatives, to identify agro-ecological practices that ensure future food security under a changing climate.

Notes to the editor:

1. Complete Survey results will be shared during Public Hearing on 8th October 2010.

2. In 2009, during the budget speech, Union Finance Minister expressed concerns over the declining response of agricultural productivity to increased fertilizer usage and initiated a reform. Union Finance Minister’s budget speech can be accessed at (Refer para. 34 in this page for his statement on fertilizer subsidies)

3. Every year Central Government spends around Rs 50,000 crores on chemical fertilizer subsidies, and this is a major driver that catalyzes intensive chemical fertilizer usage

4. Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS): The newly introduced subsidy system for chemical fertilizers, made effective from 1 April 2010. A Greenpeace policy brief on NBS is enclosed. It can also be accessed at

5. Subsidising Food Crisis - A Greenpeace India report on impact of chemical fertilizer subsidies on environment (soil and climate) can be accessed at:

Production of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is a very energy intensive process, and requires large amounts of fossil fuel energy, and hence emits Green House Gases. Application of Nitrogen fertilizers in the fields releases N2O. The concern over N2O emissions arises from its long atmospheric life (166 ± 16 years) and its higher global warming potential (296 times that of CO2).

6. Chemical fertilisers in our water - A recent study by Greenpeace India in the Malwa region of Punjab which has shown that drinking water was heavily contaminated with nitrates. 20 percent of all sampled wells had nitrate levels above the safety limit of 50 mg per litre as established by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report can be accessed at: