Global Environmental Catastrophe: BIODIVERSITY is the only Solution
Biodiversity means balance in nature. When all the five elements of earth, fire, air, water and sky are in balance the farmer can produce good crops and our environment is protected. The world faces two challenges of hunger and pollution. Biodiversity is the key to find solutions to these challenges. The soil has all the things required to produce good crops that include microbes and earthworms. Humus plays a crucial role in increasing the fertility of the soil.
Till 1958, the world was free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, the introduction of chemical fertilizers to increase crop yield with production of two crops every year has initiated the beginning of pollution of land, water and air. The organic manure got from cows, bulls and buffaloes was fast replaced by chemical fertilizers. In India, at one point of time we could cup water with our hands from river streams and drink it. Now, as we have been increasingly using chemical fertilizers and pesticides water in the streams has become polluted. We drink water that is processed and packaged. We have destroyed our surrounding and nature and entered a vicious circle. The farmer in India is able to grow two crops per year with per acre yield of 30 bags of paddy instead of 15 bags as in the past. However, the more crop produce has come with great devastation. The farmer who has to produce ‘amruth ahar’ (exilir food) is now growing food polluted with chemicals and fertilizers.
Modern farming techniques left a devastating impact on the biodiversity of each place. The balance in nature marked by the presence of rats, flogs, snakes, insects, birds and peacocks has been destroyed by use of chemicals and pesticides. Added, the rise of urbanization has also lead to destruction of natural habitats of animals and birds, and caused their early extinction. The friends of the farmer like birds, insects, earthworms, butterflies and bees are increasingly under threat of extinction. According to UN the land used for cultivation is greatly polluted with arsenics, lead and mercury, and the food we take has traces of these poisonous chemicals.
Today, we have become like punctured tyres. The food we take does not give us the strength, and we do not have the energy to lift even 25 kilograms. The number of people suffering from BP, Sugar and Thyroid is increasing. By this, we have realized that by creating biodiversity, balance in nature, we can get back a healthy, happy and joyful life. In 1972, Smt Indira Gandhi the then Prime Minister of India announced at an International Biodiversity meeting that 2% of the GDP should be allotted to the development of biodiversity. The UN Convention on Biodiversity at Cop11 and Mop11 has also supported the cause of biodiversity. However, things remained only on paper as the funds allotted to biodiversity were diverted to other sectors.
Supreme Court of India has viewed that adequate funds should be allotted for protection of the environment. Also, the amounts collected from mines, steel and metal industries for the protection of the environment and biodiversity are actually not spent for the said purpose. The land ceiling that came into effect after independence of India destroyed the rural fabric, and led to rise in unemployment. On average, the size of land in each individual’s possession came down from 18 acres to 2 acres. The educated have are reluctant to live in villages and not interested to take up agriculture. This scenario raised the question of how far and how much the technology enabled farming can be practiced by the poor and marginal farmers. There is immediate need for change in people’s thinking and government policies about land ownership and farming practices in India.
At the time of property registration, the tree value is taken into consideration. It is Rs.1000/- per tree. If there are 20 trees the value comes to Rs.20000/- added to the registration fees. RBI considers trees as assets along with the land. 40 years ago, my cousin had to cut down all the trees in his 70 acres of land. This he did to avoid addition fee he had to pay at the time of sale and registration. It is only after 6 months of cutting all the trees, he sold the land. As per UN, the value of a 55 year old tree is 5.6 crore that includes its role in environmental protection, supply of oxygen and product (flowers, fruits, bark, leaves, roots and others). Undermining the value of a tree, we tend to cut trees as part of laying and widening roads and pay a meagre value of Rs.10000/- per tree. The indifference and lackadaisical attitude of government in recognizing the real value of the tree needs to be noted.
Today, we are witnessing farmers’ suicides. If we buy produce from farmers this will not happen. The whole world looks towards India for supply of herbs and herbal medicine as it ensures health with no side effects. There is a realization of the evil effects of modern medicine. If medicine is taken for disease of an organ, other organs are also affected by disease. So there is need to replace modern palliative medicine with herbal and herbs based medicine which offers permanent and safe cure for many diseases.
By promoting herbs, the farmers are benefited and there will be no farmers’ suicides. When we buy coconuts and vegetables we bargain ruthlessly. But when we buy a Coke, Pizza or Burger we pay the price with no bargain. This condition hits the farmers hard and they are forced to sell their produce at an unviable price leading to their greater indebtedness and impoverishment. We are cutting down the branch on which we are resting and setting up fire under our chairs. We are buying ill-health and disease by giving importance to coke, burger and pizza and neglecting the healthy foods produced by our farmers. In the present times, biodiversity has come to near devastation, only committed and focused efforts can set right the wrongs done.
Pragati was established in 1994. We have proved to the world how a no-go and barren land where even lizards will not lay eggs can be converted into one of the world’s renowned bio-diversity park. We have recreated the lost biodiversity at Pragati. It is not something new, as biodiversity is part of Bharatiya Samskruti and Sampradayalu. Nature and its rich trees, animals and birds are part of our Hindu culture. Lord Shiva wears a snake around his neck, his vehicle is bull. Goddess Parvati’ vehicle is tiger, Lord Ganesha’ vehicle is the rat, Lord Kumaraswamy’ vehicle is peacock and together all the animals associated with different gods constitute the richness of our biodiversity as embedded in our religion. The rat and the snake help in protection of the environment in many ways. Today, in the name of urbanization we have been encroaching on the habitats of rats, snakes, peacocks and others, and we have no right to do so. It is only by practicing the principle of “Live and Let Live” we can further and develop biodiversity in India and across the world.
The 85 percent of the population that lives in the villages of India now will migrate to urban areas by 2050. The 35 percent of greenery that existed earlier has been reduced to 4.5 percent now. Pragati has offered the needful solutions for the problem of people leaving villages and migrating to urban areas, that will put strain on the resources and facilities existing. If the farmers start cultivating medicinal and herbal plants used in the production of medicines in ayurveda, unani, naturopathy and homeopathy. This will benefit the farmers and their migration to urban areas will be stopped. We will realize our own health (Swakalyanam) and society’s health (Vishwakalyanam) with the concept of “food as the medicine, and enter an era where the “farmer is the king.”
In this state, there will be reversal of prosperity flow from urban to rural India. This initiative has to be taken up by the government by making needful changes in the policy matters. For example, during road widening trees are cut and sold for their wood at Rs.10,000/- The government should understand the real value of a tree, where the actual price of a 55 year old tree is 5.6 crore. As per Bharatiya Sampradayalu, each tree represents one element of the 5 elements (panchabhootalu) air, water, fire, Earth and sky. We have trees as per Rishi, Nakshatra, and Raashi. Due to their medicinal and herbal properties different parts of the tree (roots, bark, flowers, fruits, leaves) are used as “samidelu” in yajnas and yagas. The offering of flowers, fruits, leaves and other parts of the plant to the divine cannot be taken as part of a religious ritual. The reason for associating trees with gods and goddesses is to protect trees from being cut down, as trees are our life saviours and give air, food and medicine which are essential for our happy and healthy life.
Once we have cut down the trees the rivers have become more polluted. By cutting down the trees along the river beds we have destroyed the root-zone plantation. The river waters when they flow cut the roots and acquire rich medicinal properties. Trees like Triphala (Usirikaya, Tanikaya and Karakkaya) and Dasamula (ten medicinal plants roots) purify the water and impart medicinal property to it. In the olden days, two sticks were planted in the lakes that provide drinking water. One stick was “Chandra” (Acacia catechu) and another is “Amla” (Phyllanthus emblica) which have the properties to purify the water.
Instead of realizing the importance of root zone plantation, our government has sought the help of Japan and Germany for cleaning of our rivers viz. Ganga and water reservoirs like Hussainsagar. At this juncture of time, what is needful is to learn from our history and the age old practices for the promotion of biodiversity and protection of trees across kingdoms of Madhura, Maya, Kanchi, Kashi, Avantika, and Puri. Our traditional methods and technologies helped in protecting forests and in maintaining trees on either side of the roads. This shows the concern of our ancestors for protection of trees, environment and health of the future generations. Over time we have forgotten the great contribution of our ancestors for the protection of trees and environment. This meant to kill all efforts and practices of our ancestors for protection of the environment.
We Indians today are in an enigmatic and condemnable situation. We are standing on a mountain of pearls, gold and diamonds, but begging the world for alms and charity. Our mindset has been accustomed to begging and we have long forgotten our age-old rich values, technical knowledge and scientific practices as relayed to us by our ancestors. We have to pay a high price for our mistakes, and the coming generations neither can understand nor have to capability to set right the wrong done by us. They may fall into a confused state where, when asked from where we get milk, they say the watchman gets milk and about food, that machines produce food grains.
This generation and the upcoming generations need to understand the inordinate significance of Bharatiya samskriti, sampradayalu, methods and technologies. Pragati serves as a role model for all generations to understand the importance of our Samskriti and Sampradayalu, and of how they are integral part of our life. Also, we will know about the role of nature in man’s life, and the age old practices that offer us a healthy, disease free, joyful and happy life. Pragati model needs to be adopted by all villages, rural, semi-urban and urbanized areas across India. We have proved to the world that for the two challenges of hunger and pollution, sacred trees and sacred cows are the only answer. The knowledge of balance in nature through promotion of biodiversity should be provided to everyone. In 2012, through participation at the UN Convention on Biodiversity, Pragati has shown to the world the importance of biodiversity, and proved how man-made biodiversity can create a healthy environment free of mosquitoes, bad bacteria and virus.
Pragati is making sincere and dedicated efforts at establishing man’ connect with nature. We are organizing different training programs for the protection, preservation and promotion of nature and environment. These programs include, natural farming, manure preparation, using agricultural tools (cutters and scissors) and plantations esp. of growing herbal plants like Agastya, Punarnava as practiced by our ancestors. For example the drumstick leaves which have high medicinal value are in great demand all over the world and may get revenue up to 1 lakh per acre. If we realize this, we can help our farmers to become rich and use chartered flights to despatch the medicinal and herbal produce cultivated at their farms. However, the government policy is not farmer friendly. A fine example is the case of Indian Sandal Wood, it production in India is restricted by law, whereas a company in Australia by producing and sale of Indian Sandal wood has earned 12500 crore rupees. In India, we still follow the redundant law made by the British which put many restrictions on the production and trade of sandal wood. The British have done so, to safeguard their global sandal wood business interests.
Now it is high time for the government to announce new policies. The farmers should get minimum support price for their different farm produce. The present policy to appease the farmers’ vote bank by announcing subsidies, loans and freebies will never strengthen the farmer, but will create more lethargy and indebtedness in the rural areas of India. All agricultural policies should take into consideration the farmers conditions. The farmer faces the problem of shortage of labour at the time of harvesting the crop. Instead of distributing rice for free to the farmers, the focus of the government should be on imparting innovative techniques in traditional farming, manure production and use of innovative agricultural tools for enhanced crop output.
The focus of the farmer should shift from producing paddy to cultivation of millets. Paddy or rice provides high level of carbohydrates (glucose) which means instant energy. Unlike rice, millets provide not only energy but also strength to the body to sustain for longer time. Also the production of one kilo of rice requires 12000 litres of water, and in sharp contrast the production of one kilo of millets required only 300 litres of water. If paddy is rain-dependent, millets are draught prone crops and do not require chemical fertilizers, pesticides for their healthy growth and maximum output. Biodiversity means to save wherever saving is possible with focus on less expenditure in cultivation of crops. The focus of the farmers should be on production of medicinal and herbal plants and millets, for which the support of the government is crucial.
Biodiversity is the solution for all our problems of hunger, pollution and imbalances in nature. If we do not realize this even now, we will have to pay a very heavy price, as seeds sown fail to germinate as the soils will turn unfit for farming, with no bacteria and vermin the soil would have already lost its digestive capacity. The fall-out will be more disastrous, with dead bodies / carcasses will not disintegrate leading to spread of deadly infectious diseases and viruses. If this dangerous scenario comes into existence, can humans live? We have to open our eyes to this dangerous fall-out, and take the right initiatives to protect our biodiversity and environment to provide a happy, joyful and healthy life for ourselves and generations to come.