Best Use for Degraded Lands in Western India Project
Think of the following essay in relation to our homeland. We have water shortage in Iraq as well and in all our villages, like for example in Bartella. Our Assyrian people need help as the people of India also need help. We are an ancient people just like the Indus Valley people. What is happening in India is happening all over the world. Take fifteen minutes of your time to read through this report. Our friendship as Assyrians with peoples of the entire earth is a testament to our humanitarian spirit as a nation. Let me know what you think.
By Abbey Mikha
Changing the ideas of modernized people of the earth in relation to poor peoples of other nations has to be part of an education process for modernized people in regards to human and humanitarian issues. Abolition of rural poverty should be an extremely important concern for all persons and nations. We need to help peoples of the Third World! In our project area in the Maharashtra region in India there live a simple ancient people who have not been influenced a great deal by the progress other regions of the world have seen. Though they may be poor they certainly have people of intelligence and wisdom. Our team wants to help improve the situation of the people who are trying to survive on a seasonal basis. We have to aid in the development of farmers who can serve as future leaders in the field of agriculture. Also, we realize that water is the source of life. We want to provide help and opportunities for creative people and even inventors to influence the future of their land and villages by implementing ancient wisdom combined with modern knowledge on water harvesting techniques to cure the ecological degradation in the area. We have researched the opinions of various individuals and experts on the three approaches to land use under consideration. In our research it was our hope to find the best solution for the peoples of the Maharashtra region of India. Although it would be amazing if we could make each person in our project area rich, a more realistic solution is to provide practical advice and support in order to influence their life, so that their living conditions can improve and they will have hope and joy not just for a moment but for a lifetime.
Structuring the Problem definition
Trying to help people of other cultures is every good human beings hope regardless of which culture they are from, but there are problems to achieving those goals and dreams, most of which are financial. In the following research project and report the opinions of various individuals and experts on the three approaches to land use under consideration will be evaluated. The opinions of individuals who are actually from India like Dr. Narayana Shenoy, Greeta Nair, K.G. Kshirsagar, and Madhav Gadgil have been considered. Additionally, the views of Kevin Conway and Thomas Rosin have been presented. We also referred to Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd report called, “Modern Irrigation and Fertigation Methodologies for Higher Yields in Sugarcane.” We are of the opinion that considering a variety of views will lead us to more accurate conclusions.
It is rather confusing to think that poor peoples of the world could not want help from those who are modernized, but the fact is that people are afraid of change. The peoples who wholeheartedly want to help are often times received in a suspicious manner by the villagers in the Maharashtra region. Accepting help from those who are strangers to the ancient land of the Indus Valley is a choice and cannot be provided by force.
The ancient water harvesting techniques that the people have used for generations must be developed and combined with modern techniques to improve the livelihood of the people. To take for granted this ancient wisdom of water harvesting would be a testament to our ignorance. Therefore, we will do our utmost to appreciate this knowledge, which springs from a distant time and even an eternal source.
In his report titled, “Conjunctive use of water resources in the Decan Trap, India” Dr. Frank Simpson gives a detailed explanation of the area of Akole Taluka which is very similar to our project area located on the eastern flanks of the Western Ghats mountain range. He says:
“Akole Taluka is located on the eastern margin of the Western Ghats mountain range in the westernmost part of Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India. This area is comprised of uplands to the west and south, which give way to rolling and relatively even topography, at lower elevations to the east. The taluka is part of the Deccan Trap plateau, where generally flat lying basalt lavas make up the bedrock beneath a variable cover of weathered basalt and soil. In these respects, it is similar to much of the Deccan region, which covers an area of 500, 000 km2 in western and central India. Superficial deposits are thin to absent at higher elevations and up to 2 m or more in thickness in the valleys. The annual rainfall, which ranges from 600 to 2,000 mm across the taluka, is largely confined to the monsoon period, from June to September. July is the wettest month. Typically, there are sporadic showers during the post-monsoon period (October–January) and little or no rain in the pre- monsoon months (February–May). Before the onset of the monsoon, temperatures in the 40–50°C range are common.”
The tribal and rural people are subsistence farmers. Their main crops are rice, groundnuts, ragi and local grass during the autumn growing season, and wheat and gram during the spring season (Simpson). The quality of the harvest depends on the amount of soil moisture and there is also fluctuating water availability that decreases gradually after the monsoon period, which affects the soil and agriculture (Simpson). Water is the source of life, and attaining it is part of the difficulty for this region.
Measures of Effectiveness
We will consider that we have succeeded in our project not necessarily when we have changed the whole region. Rather, through simple signs like when the local people trust us and have learned to more effectively subsist from their land, as a result of a combination of their ancient knowledge and our suggestions and expertise. When we have shared our information of modern strategies and combined it with the people’s ancient approaches and they start to believe that we want to help them, we will have accomplished something amazing. Our goal is to help the people of Maharashtra region and those near Akole Taluka in moving forward as a group, society, and even as individuals.
We are certain that humanitarian work will and would be embraced by many individuals of the world if the funds were available. This though should not be an excuse for non-action; we must at least attempt to help poor peoples of every nation. Nonetheless, funds are one aspect of our project that we had to keep in consideration and under control. Our team of agrologists and volunteers have decided to live amongst the people of the Maharashtra region and in this way avoid unnecessary expenses. This also will help us in understanding the daily difficulties of the people. The funds we have been granted have been expended carefully with the hope of making the best of every dollar.
Water Harvesting Solution:
Water harvesting is an ancient water collection method, which has been improved and improvised throughout the ages from the time of the earliest civilizations including that of the Indus Valley. A most pleasant verse indicating a part of the water cycle is found in the ‘Kiskindha Kanda’ of Valmiki’s Ramayana. It states: “The sun’s rays have drunk the water of the seas, and carrying it as an embryo for nine months, is giving out the elixir of life” (Shenoy). The ancient peoples of the Indus Valley realized the necessity of water and its obvious connection with all the living beings on earth.
In the article titled, “Traditional water harvesting methods of India”
by Narayana Shenoy he states:
“Ancient Indian Sanskrit literature reveals the extensive knowledge our ancient predecessors possessed, of very complex and dynamic phenomena of movement of water in nature i.e. knowledge of rainfall, run-off, weather pattern, properties of water, properties of soil, etc. They designed and constructed dams, aqueducts and a variety of water harvesting structures much earlier than the commonly believed Greek, Roman or other ancient civilizations.”
This is a testament to that although the majority of the peoples of this region are poor; they are the descendants of a rich culture and civilization from a mysterious forgotten time in history. They were able to make it to this century from so many thousands of years ago! This is an achievement considering the difficult environment they live in. It is the opinion of our team that the ancient water harvesting techniques should be continued and developed and combined with modern techniques that suit the area. There are solutions, which will cause the least harm for the land and also the people. On the subject of rainwater harvesting Dr. Narayana Shenoy states:
“It can be simple to construct from inexpensive local materials, and are potentially successful in most habitable locations…Roof rainwater can’t be of good quality and may require treatment before consumption. As rainwater rushes from the roof it may carry pollutants in it such as the tiniest bit of mercury from coal burning buildings to bird feces. Although some rooftop materials may produce rainwater that is harmful to human health, it can be useful in flushing toilets, washing clothes, watering the garden… these uses alone halve the amount of water used by a typical home…Overflow from rainwater harvesting tank systems can be used to refill aquifers in a process called groundwater recharge, though this is a related process, it must not be confused with Rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvested from roofs can contain human, animal and bird feces, mosses and lichens, windblown dust, particulates from urban pollution, pesticides, and inorganic ions from the sea (Ca, Mg, Na, K, Cl, SO4), and dissolved gases (CO2, NOx, SOx)) ( Shenoy ).”
This is exactly where modern science and technology and technique can help. After collecting the water as described in the passage, it must be treated. Clean water can be made available for the population of the region. In this world of coincidence there are so many ways to lose ones life, but not having drinkable water is not an acceptable reason to die for anyone in the world, for any child of any nation. We are responsible for this as human beings and as friends to our fellow human kind.
Another opinion is that of Kevin Conway who asserts that, “Over the past 70 years, human numbers have tripled but our thirst for water has surged six-fold” (p.1). He continues:
“Supply is only one part of the growing water crisis. For an increasing number of people, water quality is every bit as threatening. Population growth, industrialization, and urbanization are not only depleting lakes, rivers, and aquifers, they are polluting them as well. Already more than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water; 3 billion lack access to basic sewerage systems. For millions, life-sustaining water is now a deadly menace. Water- and sanitation-related diseases will rob many more of their health and a productive future. The history of rain harvesting is rich in technique and innovation. The Greeks, the Mayans, and island peoples around the world all developed ways of harvesting or holding back rain as it cascaded from their roofs or flowed across their fields. IDRC-supported researchers tapped into this broad base of traditional knowledge and used the tools of modern science to improve water-harvesting techniques and safeguard water quality (Conway p.1).”
We agree with this strategy. The water harvesting solution is beneficial for the villagers near the area of Maharashtra. There are no negative consequences for the people using the various ancient techniques of water harvesting. This knowledge may come in handy at times of great need. We can help improve upon this way when combining it with some modern strategies to insure the best results.
The Sugarcane Solution:
According to the Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd report called, “Modern Irrigation and Fertigation Metholodgies for Higher Yields in Sugarcane” India is the world’s largest producer of sugar and sugarcane (p. 5). It also states that sugarcanes requirement for water and fertilizer are also equally high (p. 5). Sugarcane is grown with flood irrigation in all other states except in Maharashtra, which is the location of our project area (p. 5). According to this article the constraints for sugar cane production are:
1. Non availability of high yielding varieties
2. Dearth of good quality seed
3. Improper water management
4. Use of imbalanced fertilize doses
5. Negligence in plant protection
6. Low awareness among the farmers to use improved cultivation practices.
In this article it also states that sugarcane grows extremely well in medium to heavy, well-drained soils, and high organic matter content. Water logged soils and soils of poor drainage are not suitable. Growth of sugarcane will be poor in sandy soils (p. 6). Also, heat, humidity, and sunlight intensity play important role in sugarcane germination, tillering, vegetative growth and maturity. Sugarcane grows well in humid and hot weather (p. 6). In the JISL report it also states that the mean minimum temperature and the relative temperature disparity are comparatively lower in Maharashtra (p. 7). It seems that for all those reasons some are of the opinion that Maharashtra is a good region for growing sugar cane. This must be analyzed further with the reality and truth at heart. The motive of those trying to promote this alternative must be considered. Are these individuals trying to take what they believe to be the easy way out? This idea of making fast money while not considering the future of the land will cost the poor people in the end, not those making big money.
In an article titled, “More Maharashtra farmers shifting to sugarcane cultivation” the author Greeta Nair said the following:
Favorable conditions not necessarily climatic but more political, financial and overall support, are making farmers shift. Increasingly land in Maharashtra is being diverted to sugarcane. This shift is significant in Solapur, Beed and Latur. Traditionally cane has been grown in western Maharashtra and accounts for more than 60% of the state’s contribution to the sugar bowl. But now, cane is also been grown in areas that have historically known to be chronic drought prone areas and they are contributing 25% to the sugar production (Nair p.1).
In this region of India politics hardly considers the destiny of the common folk. Politicians should not make decisions about degraded lands and best alternatives. Politicians study politics and should contribute to their field. Geologists study the earth and these scientists and engineers should be the decision makers in regards to earth issues. This would positively influence our destiny as a human race upon this planet we call home.
All things considered, the district of Maharashtra is actually facing the problems of water scarcity and sustainability due to sugarcane cultivation. Therefore sugar cane cultivation is not the solution. A society cannot make all of its decisions based on a one-year economic plan. The income made within one year of sugar cane production will only be beneficial for those with the money in their pocket.
In the Agricultural Economics Research Review of 2006 called the, “Organic Sugarcane Farming for Development of Sustainable Agriculture in Maharashtra” by K.G. Kshirsagar the issue of how much sugar cane costs to grow is discussed. Also, how much fertilizers cost chemical and non-chemical, costs of irrigation, and plant protection chemicals. In this article he states:
In Maharashtra, about 80 per cent of water is utilized for agriculture (World Bank, 2003), and more than 60 percent of it is utilized for the sugarcane crop alone. Moreover, farmers mine water from deeper aquifers for the sugarcane crop, especially in the study district. This is a cause of great concern and demands conservation and judicious use of water, as it has endangered the stability and sustainability of agriculture. The organic sugarcane farming (OSF) has been found quite successful in the study area and has offered several benefits as compared to those by inorganic sugarcane farming (ISF). Although OSF requires more human labor, cost of cultivation has been found lower due to savings on chemical fertilizers, irrigation, seeds and agrochemicals. The yields have been observed to be relatively lower on OSF but are more than compensated by the price premium fetched by the organic sugarcane and the yield and profit stability observed on OSF. The OSF has been found to conserve the soil and water resources, increases farmers’ income, thereby enhancing their economic well-being and livelihood security. Thus, OSF is important in achieving the goal of sustainable agriculture. It has been suggested that organic farming should receive prime attention from all the stakeholders to realize its full potential in increasing profitability and providing the much sought after sustainability of agriculture.
This is an exaggeration of the reality of sugar cane production in Maharashtra and the future of its lands, soils, and economy. Although it is always good to consider various opinions in the end the truth must be the guide, for the harnessing of truth of those of the poor of Maharashtra region will be a beacon of light that will enable them to subsist well into the future. Their truth may need to be considered on a global level. It may well be a simple truth, that they need honest advice and help. The future of the lands in the region must be well thought out and although the people are being pressured to grow sugar cane by the government this solution is not the best alternative.
Do Nothing Approach
In his article called, “Conjunctive use of water resources in Deccan Trap” Dr. Frank Simpson stated, “Indigenous knowledge, attention to local religious practices, and respect for traditional and folk approaches to communication were indispensable to the success of the project.” This is a very important factor of our project also. Allowing the people of the Maharashtra region to continue on with their traditions and the way they have subsisted since ancient times without any help may be a choice, albeit an unfair one. It allows them to live life as their ancestors have done. So many times throughout history modern peoples have intruded on the lives of ancient peoples and have caused a lot of unpleasantness in the life of the people as a community. Although our project is an honorable one and we want to help the people of Maharashtra, they may not want the help we so want to give. Though they live in poverty they may have found some greater meaning to life.
A simple question may be, “Does what we want to provide for the people of this region fit with their life style as physical and spiritual beings?” The answer to this question may be contradictory depending on whom we ask. Some of the people might be very attached to their practices and consider them holy. Nonetheless, our goal is to try to increase their self-esteem so that they can change their future, but we must remember that this may not be ours to control. The natural way of living may be satisfactory and the most environmental friendly system for human beings to subsist at peace with the earth. Perhaps someday there may not be any better permanent solution and therefore we must think about the meaning behind this approach.
It is true that we should try to influence other cultures in order to help them move forward. Aiding people of the area in the Maharashtra region will benefit them physically, propel them forward as a community, and give them a better life. Nothing is certain in this world but the philosophy of brotherhood and sisterhood is everlasting.
In Madhav Gadgil’s article titled, “Biodiversity and India’s Degraded Lands” she discusses a very interesting topic. She says that, “ecosystem people” subsist by producing or gathering a diversity of biological resources from their immediate vicinity. The people of the Maharashtra region are such “ecosystem people”. She says:
“Their quality of life is intimately lined to the maintenance of modest levels of biodiversity in their own circumscribed resource catchments. Their resources base has been extensively degraded by pressures created by “biosphere people”…the Third World elite and citizens of industrial countries, who can draw resources from all over the world and are thus, indifferent to environmental degradation in the Third World. “Ecosystem people” have a genuine stake in biodiversity maintenance in their immediate surrounding, it is important that conservation efforts include maintenance and restoration of at least modest levels of biodiversity throughout the Third World (p. 167).”
So the question must be considered, “Do we want to help the poor of the region in order to give them bits of our life style, or rather so that we can continue our own life style in the future?”
Our projects incentive is moral so we can help poor farmers and villagers and give them our knowledge. After we do so though we must be careful not to consider ourselves their managers. We must not allow ourselves to believe that after we have given the people in Maharashtra newfound information that we must now stay in the country and become the overseers of events. It has been said many times that the world has become a global village and this is true, but we have overstepped many boundaries as a western civilization. We must deal with the people in a very considerate and sensitive manner. Their culture is fragile. We should help them and protect them but we should not govern them. We should never destroy that which makes them unique. Above all we should ask what they want.
Analysis of Alternative Solutions
The positive and negative consequences of each possible solution to the alternative solutions will now be considered. In Mintesinot Behailu and Mitiku Haile’s report about water harvesting they state:
“The aim of water harvesting is to mitigate the effects of temporal shortages of rain, so-called dry spells, to cover both household needs and productive use. This involves storage component and various forms of storage exist such as: micro-dams, farm ponds, subsurface dams, tanks… Water scarcity is a critical issue for many developing countries in general and for those in the arid to semi-arid areas of the world in particular. It has long been understood that intensive water resource development can have a decisive role in the economic and social development of a country and in alleviating drought. Alleviating food security related to drought and famine through sustainable agriculture and environmental rehabilitation…attempts are being made to harvest runoff water in micro-dams for use both in households and small-scale irrigation schemes. It is recognized that the construction of micro-dams with proper irrigation and agronomic services will result in micro-climatic and environmental changes with positive impact on sustained productivity. Notwithstanding the positive impacts on increased agricultural productivity and improved community welfare, the negative impacts of water resource development require constant assessment and monitoring on environmental changes (Behailu and Haile).”
Therefore, there are innumerable positive aspects to water harvesting. There are no negative consequences for the people relying on their ancient techniques and further developing them through our modern knowledge of water retrieval. This solution can only bring constructive results for the land and the people. Although the water collected may not be directly drinkable instantly, it is usable in many other ways, and there are many procedures to clean the water so that every person in Maharashtra will have enough to survive and hopefully prosper.
The positive aspects of sugar cane productions are that it provides a multitude of jobs and thus influences the economy positively. Negative aspect of sugar cane production other than the negative influence on soils, is that sugar cane is a water intensive crop, and enormous amount of water is required for its cultivation. This water is lacking in the area. The water to cultivate the sugar cane will be taken from the mouths of the people.
Although local politicians, representing both the State and Federal Governments, have proposed that there is money to be made from growing sugar cane on a large scale in our project area, we must consider the needs and the thoughts of the villagers. We are of the same opinion as the villagers. We believe that the proponents of the widespread production of sugar cane and scarce soil nutrients would be depleted on a large scale, with every harvest. Therefore, although the politicians think this strategy would be a big money maker it is not the best long-term solution for the land or the people.
The do nothing approach which would allow the villagers to live their life as they have done in the years before, since many thousand years ago in ancient times, also has positive and negative impacts. The positive aspect of this strategy is that the people would live as their ancestors have lived without disruption of their life style. The negative aspect is that the people may not be able to survive as they have because of changes upon the earth. Also, it must be said that our future as a human race is codependent. Yes, we may also need to learn from the people of the Maharashtra region, perhaps to balance our own life style of greed, waste, and excess. Therefore, we must lift the people of Maharashtra unto a higher standard of living and perhaps in the future lower our standard of living, in order to meet somewhere in the middle in a forthcoming time where we all must coexist together. Balance and equality of living standards will be essential so that we all survive into the next thousand years upon the earth.
Although it might be difficult to explain to all the people of Maharashtra what the solutions are for the project area, our team of volunteers and experts are eager and ready to meet with all the various village councils who oppose the growing of sugar cane as a major crop, and anyone else who may wish to attend our meeting. We believe that the village council is correct in that they believe that the problem of land degradation would get much worse in the longer term as a result of the mass production of sugar cane for profits. We also agree with the village council that the only way to reverse the processes of desertification, which are well under way in the region, is to prevent the monsoon rains from flowing out of the area as surface runoff. This is best done through the widespread introduction of the technologies for water harvesting and water spreading. These involve very simple modifications of the hill slopes, which are cheap, small-scale and easily replicated. The new technologies would raise the amount of soil moisture and permit the production of a higher-yield second crop. When this knowledge is combined with that of ancient harvesting methods the people will feel comfortable because they will sense a familiarity with the practices.
In Thomas Rosin’s article, “The Tradition of Groundwater Irrigation in Northwestern India” he expresses that research indicates that there existed a different groundwater irrigation system of dams and perennial canals redesigned for India by the British during the early nineteenth century and have been continued by modern Indian government. There were though also indigenous principles and practices that the people in the region followed before. He writes about a folk system of hydrologic practices in India and gives importance to the surface impoundments of rain (p. 51). He further expresses that there is a interlinking among surface water facilities and their significance to the all over hydrology. This article argues that the opinion has been voiced that the indigenous system is actually superior to that of the British (Rosin p. 51).
It is very true that some modern civilizations have lost admiration for the ancient world and the knowledge that its peoples hold within their memory. Ancient knowledge is precious and we were all once connected to peoples who were originally ancient. One day we will know perhaps how those ancient people built the great civilizations of the world including that of the mesmerizing Indus Valley, and how they survived for so many thousands of years. Until we better understand these civilizations we should never undermine the knowledge of its people.
In conclusion we cannot accept the sugar cane solution, which would cause further problems down the road for the land and the people. Therefore, we must work with the locals of the Maharashtra region to bring about changes in the area through the ancient water harvesting techniques combined with our modern knowledge. The do nothing approach in our opinion is also not acceptable. We must do something! We must be able to earn the trust of fellow human beings in that we will help them and contribute our knowledge in order to make their lives better. The Indus Valley people are a link to the past and our sincere friendship with them and all peoples of the world is our link to the future.
We should respect all the farmers of the world and not just in Maharashtra. We must always also remember just like human beings need rest the earth also needs its rest and can only produce so much. Do not abuse the earth that freely gives of herself and be true to our planet. God only knows how much time there is left on earth. This was an Assyrians point of view in regards to Geology and what is going on in India and the world. The big question is though do you agree and what do you think and believe?
Brooks David, Shames Tilly, Wolfe Sarah (2001). Local Water Supply and Management: A Compendium of 30 Years of IDRC-Funded Research International Development Research Centre. Retrieved from: http://web.idrc.ca/uploads/user- S/111711308618Brooks.pdf
Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. Irrigation & Fertigation Methologies for Higher Yields in Sugarcane. Retrieved from: http://www.jains.com/PDF/crop/sugarcane%20cultivation.pdf
K.G. Kshirsagar, Agricultural, (2006). Organic Sugarcane Farming for Development of Sustainable Agriculture in Maharashtra. Economics Research Review Vol. 19 pp 145-153. Retrieved from: http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/57785/2/DrKG-Kshirsagar.pdf
Madhav Gadgil, Biodiversity and India’s Degraded Lands. Published by: Springer on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Page 167 of 167-172. Obtained from Jstor: Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4314063.
Mintesinot Behailu and Mitiku Haile, (2006 June). Highlighting the impacts of North– South research collaboration among Canadian and southern higher education partners. Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada.
Nair Geeta, (2011 Jan 14). More Maharashtra Farmers Shifting to Sugarcane Cultivation. Financial Express. Retrieved from:
Rosin Thomas (1993). Human Ecology: The Tradition of Groundwater Irrigation in Northwestern India. Obtained from Jstor.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4603074
Shenoy Narayana, (2009 August 16). Traditional Water Harvesting Methods of India. Retrieved from: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage& pid=304&page=22
Simpson Frank, and Sohani Girish, (2003). India BP-II.13: Conjunctive Use of Water Resources in Deccan Trap. In: MOST/Nuffic (IK-Unit) Database, Register of Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge, Chapter 4 of Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge, Joint Publication of the Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST) and the Centre for International Research and Advisory Networks (CIRAN), MOST Database of Best Practices. Web-link Reference: http://www.unesco.org/most/bpik13-2.htm