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Image by AP Photo/Altaf Qadri. An elderly farmer shouts slogans as
others listen to a speaker as they block a major highway during a protest
to abolish new farming laws.

January 30, 2021

Farmers in India face a plethora of plights including the soar in air pollution. In other words, India, which produced a record wheat harvest of 100 million tons in 2018-19, could have produced 40 million tons more if the atmosphere were as clean as it was 50 years ago According to a study by IIT-Delhi and CPCB air pollution in rural areas are at par with urban India.Around 70% of India’s population live in rural areas and their major activity is agriculture, and major productive asset land. Moreover, as of 2019, 99.5 per cent districts in India did not meet WHO’s air quality guideline.


In 2010 Researchers found yields were up to 36% lower between years 1980 and 2010. Some densely populated states experienced 50% relative yield losses due to air pollution. These losses lead to grave repercussions in terms of losses, that equaled 24 tonnes of wheat, costing $5 billion.


Another impetus for the loss in yield is caused by virtue of motor vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, and chemical solvents reacting in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. Current estimates suggest that this pollution(O3) is causing between 5% and 12% yield losses globally in staple crops, which include wheat, rice, maize, soybean. Losses could aggregate to as much as $20 Billion.


Water pollution

According to the latest assessment by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), 70% of the country’s fresh water – in the ground or on the surface – also is contaminated. “If surface water is contaminated with untreated effluent, farmers use this for irrigation. The farmers are exposed to all contaminants and are likely to experience diarrhoea, bronchitis, skin diseases, eye irritation etc. There are dire reverberations to contaminated water for example, kids are born healthy, but fall ill very quickly afterwards, one farmer said. “Over time we realized that some crops are riskier to consume than others. Lentils seem to be less contaminated, so we eat them. Other vegetables, such as cauliflower, okra, and aubergine seem more contaminated. We believe they are unfit for consumption, so we don’t eat them. We sell them to the markets in Delhi.”


"The contaminants enter the soil, the biomass and thus enter the food chain. The entire food chain is contaminated because of this untreated effluent.” says an environmental scientist at the Center for Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW).


Lastly, the UK Department for International Development conducted a research on heavy metal contamination in spinach from various markets in Delhi, including the wholesale market in Azadpur(a market in Delhi). Every sample exceeded the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s international safety standard for lead. 73% were found to exceed accepted PFA global public health safety standards for lead. 24% contained twice the PFA standard. A fifth of the samples also had markedly elevated levels of zinc.


To conclude, it is safe to say that pollution ensues to abate efficiency and has increased the cost of production. Moreover, pollution also emanates the issue of contaminated food inevitably leading to the spread of diseases.




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