BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, WHILE INAUGURATING THE INTERNATIONAL
CONFERENCE ON "LAND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT FOR FOOD, EMPLOYMENT AND
NEW DELHI, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2000
am happy to associate myself with the International Conference on Land
Resource Management for Food, Employment and Environmental Security. It
is said that care of the land is a down to earth index of a civilisation.
Better soil health, adequate water and sustainable agricultural practices
contribute a lot to the quality of the land. Soil Conservation Society
of India since its inception in 1951, as a non-governmental organisation
and a scientific organisation, has focussed on these vital issues. Department
of Land Resources which is the co-organiser of this Conference, was created
at the initiative of the Soil Conservation Society. I am happy that eminent
international experts are meeting here to discuss this important subject.
resources are finite and therefore their conservation, development and
management have always played a determining role in sustaining life and
civilisation. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, had very poignantly
said in 1946, "To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is
to forget ourselves". If we forget to take care of the land in our
desperate search for food security we will only harvest disaster. Lord
John Boyd Orr, the first Director General of FAO said in 1948, "Increases
in agricultural production are possible through modern methods. But those
advances in science will be useless, unless there is enough good land
for farming. If the soil on which all agriculture and all human life depend
is wasted away then the battle to free mankind from want cannot be won".
is appropriately said that, "we are only 15 cms. away from our annihilation,
this 15 cms. being our top soil." The land degradation is taking
place at an alarming rate resulting in erosion of soil. In India alone
it has been calculated that the annual loss of soil due to water erosion
may exceed 4 billion tonnes.
first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in a letter to the Chief
Ministers on 12th January 1958 cited the observation of Dr.
C.E. Kellog, Head of the Soil Conservation Division of the USA and wrote,
"if proper soil conservation practices were applied to land in India,
production could be increased three to four times to solve the food problem
of the country".
recall that in February 1980, the 12th International Congress
of Soil Science, held in New Delhi, urged for a one point World Charter
stipulating all nations for adoption of a well identified national policy
to husband the soil wealth.
revolution in our country, in the conception and execution of which Dr.
M.S. Swaminathan played a crucial role, has helped us to ensure food self-sufficiency
by increasing our annual food grain production from 55 million tonnes
in 1950 to slightly over 200 million tonnes in 1999. One interesting aspect
of green revolution is that most of the production took place in a limited
land area, and as a result, a lot of land was saved from agricultural
operation. In spite of this saving of land, per capita availability of
land has declined from 0.48 hectares in 1952 to 0.15 hectares in 2000
due to population increase. The shortage of land is compounded by increase
of waste land which is estimated, by the Department of Land Resources,
to be 63.8 million hectares. We are also loosing 15 million hectares of
land due to spread of urbanisation and the demand for more land for housing,
industries, and communication. In such a grim situation how can we provide
0.5 hectares of arable land per capita, the minimum land required, for
ensuring food and other essential needs of an individual?
think we have no option but to produce more from the limited land available
to ensure food security. While doing so we must be mindful of the soil
health for future generations. Mahatma Gandhi had warned that, "trading
in soil fertility for the sake of quick returns could prove to be a disastrous,
short-sighted policy. It would result in virtual depletion of soil."
Dr. Norman Borlaug had said that, "the significance of maintaining
soil fertility becomes increasingly crucial, not only for food security
but indeed to preserve civilisation". We have, in our recent National
Policy on Agriculture, aimed at achieving 4% growth rate in food grain
production and at the same time recognised that sustainable agriculture
is fundamental to food security. It is clear that the future of food security
lies in conserving prime farm land for agriculture and restoring the biological
potential of degraded lands. The scientific know-how for land conservation
and reclamation exists. What is lacking is the conversion of this know-how
into field level do-how.
use decisions are also decisions on water use. In this context let me
take you from the realm of scientific know-how to the world of ordinary
people who by applying their traditional practices have saved land and
conserved water. I visited the Bhaonta-Kolyala village in the Alwar district
of Rajasthan along with Mr. Anil Agarwal of the Centre for Science and
Environment and saw the watershed created by villagers during the last
10 years by building hundreds of rain water harvesting structures. This
has helped them to reclaim land for agricultural purposes and conserve
water which helped them to survive even a drought. I am glad that this
Conference is organising a special discussion on the experiences of the
people of Bhaonta-Kolyala and similar villages.
recall that two decades back in a village in Madhya Pradesh common people
started a movement under the banner "Save the Soil Campaign"
to protect their land from salinity caused by water from an irrigation
project. They planted trees which saved the soil from erosion salinity
and water logging. Villages such as Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra and
Sukhomajri in Haryana further provide shinny examples of people’s initiatives
reversing land degradation.
has also taken initiatives to involve people for land regeneration. Our
former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi announced a major national policy to
develop and green waste land with the active participation of people.
also wish to commend the Community Food and Water Security System launched
by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation at Chennai. When I visited
the JRD Tata Ecotechnology Centre of the Foundation two years ago, I saw
the work being done in very low rainfall districts in getting every drop
of rainwater conserved and used for growing high value but low water requiring
crops like pulses. The Foundation has initiated a programme for enabling
village communities to conserve their local biodiversity in field gene
banks and to preserve water, seeds and grains in village water, seed and
grain banks. It is only such community-centered and controlled food and
water security systems that will help us to realize Gandhiji’s vision
of a hunger-free India.
people are in the forefront to manage land and water resources, scientists,
particularly the agricultural scientists in this Conference, must provide
leadership in launching a Land and Water Care Movement. I am aware that
Australia has an effective community led land care movement. Developing
countries need such programmes urgently.
our efforts for land resource management we must acknowledge the vital
role of women. Women themselves constitute the best of human resource.
In many movements for preservation of forests and top soil, women have
played pioneering role. It is now acknowledged that Women Feed the World.
But they remain the worst victims of land degradation. The distances they
cover to fetch water, fodder and fuel wood have further increased as a
result of such ecological problems. If women remain disadvantaged due
to land degradation their progeny will grow stunted. Therefore land degradation
is one of the worst forms of inter-generational inequity. In India one-third
members in our Panchayats are women. They have availed of reservation
of 33% of seats for themselves. Already one million women have completed
a term of five years and played an important role in management of natural
resources. Therefore it is imperative that their abilities are harnessed
for food security.
efforts for food security through land resource management and sustainable
agriculture can be greatly augmented by combining space technology with
biotechnology advances. Information obtained through remote sensing data
on land use practices, soil condition, water resources can be used for
green revolution that we witnessed in the 1960s and 70s can be converted
into an evergreen revolution only if there is a paradigm shift in our
research and development strategy, leading to a change from a purely commodity-centered
approach to one based on an integrated natural resource management strategy.
In this integrated strategy people’s participation will be a crucial element.
Scientific and agricultural experts will have to join together with the
farmers and the common people in a popular movement for protecting the
land and the mother earth itself so that the blessings of nature can be
sustained and harvested for meeting the basic needs of the human kind.
I congratulate the Soil Conservation Society of India and the Department
of Land Resources of the Ministry of Rural Development on their timely
initiative in bringing together large numbers of national and international
experts at this Conference. I wish the Conference all success.