Urban Farming in India
In News • The People’s Resource Center, a research non-profit with offices in Delhi, recently submitted the “Draft Citizen’s Policy for Urban Agriculture in Delhi” to the Delhi government.
More about the Policy
- The goal of the strategy is to give urban farming a comprehensive framework.
- Urban Agriculture in Delhi:
- City-grown food supplies around 60% of Delhi’s meat requirements, 25% of its milk requirements, and 15% of its vegetable requirements.
- Yet policies on land use and farming in the National Capital do not acknowledge the role of cultivation and distribution of food in urban areas, says the draft policy.
- It recommends building on existing practices, promoting residential and community farming through rooftop and kitchen gardens, allocating vacant land for agricultural use, creating a market, developing policies for animal rearing and spreading awareness.
- Food security:
- Risk factors for a food shortage include rapid urbanisation, population growth, and climate change.
- These suggestions are essential for ensuring urban residents’ access to food. This advantage has long been emphasised in justifications for urban farming.
- Fulfilling nutrition demand:
- 2010 report by M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, notes that 50 percent of women and children in urban areas are anaemic due to lack of adequate nutrition.
- The study also recommends urban agriculture.
- Poverty alleviation:
- Urban and periurban farming can help meet local food and nutritional needs, create jobs, and lessen poverty, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which acknowledged this in 2020 on a global scale.
Initiatives in India
- In India, urban farming has seen some traction across states, prompting governments to introduce small-scale initiatives to promote the practice.
- In 2008, Pune’s civic administration launched a city farming project to train and encourage people to take up farming on allocated land.
- State of Kerala had been food dependent until 2012 after which the state government launched a vegetable development programme to encourage gardening in houses, schools, government and private institutions.
- It also offered subsidy and support for eco-friendly inputs, irrigation, compost and biogas plants.
- According to Kerala State Planning Board, vegetable production rose from 825,000 tonnes in 2011-12 to 1.3 million tonnes in 2014-15.
- Tamil Nadu:
- Similarly, in 2014, the Tamil Nadu government introduced a “do-it-yourself” kit for city dwellers to grow vegetables on rooftops, houses and apartment buildings under its Urban Horticulture Development Scheme.
- Since 2021, Bihar encourages terrace gardening in five smart cities through subsidy for input cost.
- Lack of policy:
- While such initiatives are welcome, their impact cannot be expected to be widespread without a strong policy for urban farming.
- For instance, Pune’s 2008 initiative failed to take off due to poor interest from people and the government.
- Lack of recognition:
- Even the recently released draft Master Plan of Delhi for 2041, does not acknowledge the role of the practice.
- It aims to divide 8,000 hectares of land along the Yamuna into two sub-zones and restrict human activity or settlement in areas directly adjacent to the river.
- However, several communities on the floodplains practise urban farming.
- Critics claim that informal communities like Chilla Khadar and Bela Estate will lose their agricultural land if this draught master plan is implemented.
- Even the recently released draft Master Plan of Delhi for 2041, does not acknowledge the role of the practice.
- Lack of parallel benefits:
- Farmers cannot avail benefits under any agricultural schemes such as crop insurance.
- Issue of rapid development:
- Rapid development is also a hindrance in continuing with existing practics.
Suggestions & way ahead
- Practicing innovative techniques like Hydroponics:
- According to studies, overuse of chemical pesticides and fertilisers might result in lower-quality produce and soil in urban farms.
- However, urban farmers believe such hurdles can be overcome with innovative techniques.
- Cleaner alternatives include soilless agricultural techniques like hydroponics, which support plants with nutritional solutions.
- Hydroponics uses 90% less water than commercial farming, and that water can be recycled.
- Even though these projects are still in their infancy and are specialised, one can cultivate more plants in the available space.
- Small-scale farming – cushion in crisis:
- While kitchen gardening and small-scale community farming cannot support a huge population, they can serve as a safety net for urban dwellers against inflation, weather-related risks, and disasters like COVID-19.
- Even though, such innovations, cannot match the scale of rural agriculture, before more villages become urban, early interventions can result in a sustainable system.
- Recognition & funding:
- There is a need to bring in more institutional clarity and also multi-disciplinary expertise to solve such challenges.
- To promote urban farming, governments must recognise informal practices and link them with agricultural schemes.
Neglected Tropical Diseases
- Recently, the “Global report on neglected tropical diseases 2023” was published on World NTD Day- January 30th by WHO.
- Global burdon of NTDs:
o The research claims that Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) continue to disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people living in places with high rates of
- insufficient water safety
- Cleanliness and
- availability of healthcare.
o The burden of NTDs worldwide was borne by about 16 countries.
o According to the research, there are approximately 1.65 billion people worldwide who need treatment for at least one NTD.
- Impact of COVID:
- Report highlighted the advancement and challenges in delivering NTD care worldwide against a backdrop of COVID-19-related disruptions.
- It also highlighted the tremendous effects COVID-19 had on community-based initiatives, access to healthcare facilities and healthcare goods supply chains.
- As a result, between 2019 and 2020, 34 percent fewer persons received treatment for NTDs.
- Despite challenges, some accomplishments were made on this front in 2021-2022.
- More than one billion people have been treated for NTDs annually between 2016 and 2019, thanks to mass treatment initiatives.
- And in 2021, 25 percent fewer people needed treatments against NTDs than in 2010.
- Need for efforts and investments:
- It underscored greater efforts and investments required to reverse delays and accelerate progress towards the NTD road map targets by 2030.
- Collaborations and partnerships:
- WHO urged multi-sectoral collaboration and partnerships to achieve these targets.
- Closing the gaps:
- WHO called on additional partners and funders to step up and close the gaps preventing the full-scale implementation of NTD actions at the international and local levels.
- WHO’s initiatives:
- Over 100 scientific recommendations, tools, and other information products were produced as a result of WHO’s NTD efforts in 2021 and 2022 to support the international NTD community, particularly poor countries.
- The global health body launched an NTD channel with 36 training courses on 19 different topics for healthcare professionals.
|More about the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD)
NTD’s in India
- Some of the poorest populations in India continue to bear a heavy health burden as a result of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
- At least 10 major NTDs, including hookworm, dengue, lymphatic filariasis, leprosy, visceral leishmaniasis or kala-azar, and rabies, have the highest absolute burden in India.
- 328 districts in 21 states and union territories have an endemic case of lymphatic filariasis.
- In India, o Kala-Azar is endemic in 54 districts spread across four states, and the combined prevalence of the disease is 650 million and 140 million, respectively.
- Since no one organisation or government entity in India has been charged with estimating the true cost of NTDs, it is challenging to do so.
- The Government of India is 100 percent committed to ending NTDs like Lymphatic Filariasis and Kala-Azar, in line with global elimination and control targets.
- Preventive methods:
- In endemic areas, preventive strategies including Mass Drug Administration (MDA) rounds are periodically implemented, during which at-risk communities receive free anti-filarial medications.
- Vector-control measures:
- In endemic locations, vector-control strategies like Indoor Residual Spraying cycles are used to stop the breeding of sandflies.
- For those with lymphedema and hydrocele, the government also supports morbidity management and disability prevention.
- Target-oriented elimination:
- The National Center for Vector Borne Disease Control and Programme for Leprosy and Soil Transmitted Helminths have targeted the elimination or prevention of some vector-borne diseases (mosquito and sandfly).
- Wage compensation schemes:
o The state and federal governments have also established salary compensation programmes for those who have Kala-Azar and its sequela, Post-Kala Azar Dermal Leishmaniasis, which is a sickness or injury’s aftereffect.
- We have the tools and the know-how not just to save lives and prevent suffering but to free entire communities and countries of these diseases.
- It’s time to act now, act together, and invest in NTDs.
- India is positioned to take the lead in the fight against NTDs on a global scale, but success in this decade would require more audacious action.
- Multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral partnerships and collaboration will continue to play a crucial role in maintaining the momentum established as India remains steadfast in its goal to eradicate NTDs.
- Eliminating these many NTDs requires an integrated strategy that prioritises addressing climate change, guaranteeing gender parity, and enhancing access to excellent healthcare, water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Economics of Millet Cultivation
• Agronomists discussed the prospect for an Indian millet revolution.
- Millets have unique dietary and agronomic characteristics (high in protein, dietary fiber, micronutrients, antioxidants and drought-resistant)
- There has been a decrease in the area planted with millet in recent years, with the production of sorghum and pearl millet falling or stagnating and the production of other millets declining.
- According to the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, it’s important to maintain crop diversity, boost production and consumption, and increase farm incomes.
- Following India’s recommendation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations proclaimed 2023 the “International Year of Millets.”
Millets in India:
- A series of small-seeded cereal crops known as millets are cultivated extensively in India due to their high nutritional content and resistance to drought.
- The majority of Indian millets are grown in arid and semi-arid regions due to their drought tolerance.
- They are small-seeded grasses that are a member of the Poaceae botanical family and are also referred to as “coarse cereals” or “poor people’s cereals.”
- In India, there are two groups of millets grown viz.,
- Major – sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet
- Minor – foxtail, little millet, kodo, proso, barnyard millet
Millets have historically been a significant kharif crop in rural India, particularly in semi-arid areas where other crops may not be able to thrive adequately.
Key data on Millets in India:
• The overall amount of grains distributed through the Public Distribution System and the Integrated Child Development Scheme in 2019–20 was around 54 million tonnes. To replace 20% of that amount with millet, 10.8 million tonnes would need to be purchased.
• The majority of the nutri-cereals produced overall in 2019–20 were maize, at 47.7 million tonnes.
• The few states that procure millets have tiny central stocks (33 million tonnes of rice, 31 million tonnes of wheat, 4 lakh tonnes of nutri-cereals)
• In the 2018–19 growing season, the three millet crops bajra (3.67%), jowar (2.13%), and ragi (0.48%) accounted for nearly 7% of the nation’s total planted land.
• India is one of the top 5 exporters of millets, with $64.28 million in exports in 2021–2022.
|Advantages of Millets||Challenges of Millets|
Steps taken by Government to promote Millets:
- National Food Security Mission: The National Food Security Mission, which was established in 2007, intends to enhance India’s output of rice, wheat, and pulses in order to satisfy the nation’s expanding food demand.
- National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm: This mission was launched in 2010 to increase the production of oilseeds and oil palm in India, in order to improve the livelihoods of farmers and enhance the availability of oil for domestic consumption.
- National Bamboo Mission: Launched in 2006, the National Bamboo Mission aims to promote the cultivation and use of bamboo in India. It provides support for the development of the bamboo industry, including research and development, marketing, and infrastructure development.
- National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture: Launched in 2010, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture aims to make Indian agriculture more sustainable, productive, and profitable. This mission focuses on improving the soil health, water management, and cropping practices in Indian agriculture.
- National Mission for Sustainable Livelihoods: Launched in 2011, the mission aims to provide sustainable livelihoods to the rural poor in India. This mission focuses on enhancing the livelihoods of the rural poor through skill development, job creation, and micro-enterprise development.
- Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana: Launched in 2007, it is a central sector scheme aimed at improving the productivity of agriculture in India by providing financial support for the development of irrigation, soil and water conservation, and other infrastructure in the agriculture sector.
What more can be done?
- Encouraging and assisting farmers to cultivate millet by providing subsidies and improved market access
- Marketing value-added millet products to boost demand and profitability.
- Enhancing millet seed distribution and quality through public and private initiatives
- Educating farmers on the most recent millet cultivation methods through extension services
- Increasing research and development activities to increase millet crop productivity and quality
- Improving transportation and storage infrastructure to cut down on post-harvest losses
- Encouraging millets-intercropping to boost farm productivity and income
- Promoting collaborations between farmers, processors, and merchants to establish a millet value chain that is sustainable
- Promoting cross-border partnerships to exchange best practises and information about millet production and marketing.
The Gender Gap in Higher Education
- According to the most recent All India Survey on Higher Education, significant progress made in bridging the gender gap across several undergraduate programmes suffered a setback in the current year (AISHE).
|All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE)
Major Highlights of data
- From 3.85 crores in 2019–20, the total number of students enrolled in higher education climbed to over 4.14 crores in 2020–21.
- The number of students enrolled has increased by over 72 lakh (21%) from 2014–15.
- The number of female students enrolled has increased from 1.88 crores in 2019–20 to 2.01 crores. Since 2014–15, there has been a growth of almost 44 lakh (28%).
- Between 2014–15 and 2020–21, the proportion of female enrollment to total enrollment increased from 45% to almost 49%.
- In the academic year 2020–21, fewer women than men—100 men—enrolled in various Bachelor’s programmes.
- Undergraduate programmes such as nursing and education, which have traditionally had more women participation, also witnessed a significant fall in numbers for women.
- The gender gap in undergraduate programmes such as computer science, business administration, pharmacy, technology and law – which have always had a gender skew in favour of men – continues to be large.
Importance of Girls’ Education
- Education of girls is vital not only on grounds of social justice but also because it accelerates social transformation.
- The promotion of gender equality in education is essential for human resource development. By educating a woman you educate the whole family
- Education has a direct impact on women’s empowerment.
- No society has ever liberated itself economically, politically, or socially without a sound base of educated women
Existing Issues and Challenges
- The expansion of the educational system has been uneven and inadequate.
- The educational standing of boys and girls differs by gender.
- Cultural, societal, and economic barriers continue to keep girls from pursuing higher education.
- In rural places, young girls are forced to help with domestic and agricultural tasks.
- This is only one of the many barriers that prevent girls from pursuing higher education.
- Other barriers to girls’ education include their physical safety, particularly when they must travel far to school, and their dread of sexual harassment.
- Women continue to be underrepresented in the fields of hard science, technology, engineering, and mathematics worldwide (STEM).
- According to UNESCO data on a few chosen nations, India ranks last with only 14% of female researchers engaged in STEM fields.
- STEM occupations are frequently perceived as masculine, and teachers and parents frequently undervalue girls’ abilities.
- This frequently causes a confidence gap in young females, who become more critical of their abilities and hold them to higher standards as a result
- the visibility of female faculty in universities and research institutes is significantly lower.
- The number of female participants in decision-making bodies such as the board of governors or council of institutes of higher education of repute is abysmally low.
- Moreover, girls lose out on not just education, they also experience a reduction in peer interaction and a loss of protective environments and social support networks.
- The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for educators and students, especially for those on the margins, including girls.
Policies and Programmes
- The Indian Constitution’s Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, and Directive Principles all explicitly state the importance of gender equality.
- The Constitution not only ensures women’s equality but also gives the State the authority to enact laws that positively discriminate in favour of women.
- By offering incentives for women to pursue higher education, the Indian government has stepped up its efforts to reduce gender disparity.
- Several of these programmes, including
- the Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI): a pilot project under the Department of Science and Technology to promote gender equity in science and technology, and
- Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN): a plan under the Department of Science and Technology again to encourage women scientists in science and technology and also prevent women scientists from giving up research due to family reasons, are noteworthy.
- Some institutions are setting up creches so that the scientist mothers can carry on with their research work uninterrupted.
- Universities too are trying their best to be equal opportunity employer
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: The Hon. Prime Minister started it in 2015 at Panipat in Haryana with the goal of changing society’s attitudes on childbirth and the rights of a girl child.
- The Sukanya Samriddhi Account (SSA) Scheme: It is a small deposit scheme of the Government of India meant exclusively for a girl child. The scheme is meant to meet the education and marriage expenses of a girl child
- CBSE Udaan Scheme: It is a platform that supports female students’ aspirations to enrol in top engineering universities and plays a significant part in the future growth and progress of the nation.
- Free or subsidized education for the girl child,
- Reservation for women in colleges and universities
- National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education: In May 2008, the federally funded “National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education (NSIGSE)” was introduced to provide incentives to class IX pupils. The programme has been added to the National Scholarship Portal (NSP).
- The objective of the scheme is to establish an enabling environment to promote enrolment and reduce dropout of girls belonging to SC/ST communities in secondary schools and ensure their retention up to 18 years of age.
Suggestions and Conclusion
• Women’s participation in higher education institutions needs to be a priority.
• India would be able to significantly contribute to sustainable development thanks to the equitable involvement of women in higher education.
o It is important to emphasise quality and cost in addition to ensuring equal access to education.
• To promote women in higher education, state governments must make use of already-existing programmes.
• The younger generation needs to see female role models at the state and district levels so they can see the heights they can reach by pursuing STEM education.
- In order to create a more appealing and welcoming atmosphere for women in STEM, organisations should take a top-down, multi-pronged strategy.
- More women-friendly environment, facilities of a creche, period leaves, and maternity leaves should be induced in the working system,
- Social media can also be roped in to promote women in science which can encourage young girls to choose their careers confidently.
- There is a need to change societal norms, cultural and traditional biases and general mindsets of people.
- And in this the media, civil society, and the youth, women, and girls have a lot to contribute
• The government will shortly begin the process of establishing the 16th Finance Commission, and the Finance Ministry is probably going to announce the terms of reference for the legal body.
- The terms of reference for the Sixteenth FC will be worked out after internal government deliberations steered by the Finance Ministry
- the first step towards constituting the Commission will be the appointment of an Officer on Special Duty to drive the process.
- This officer typically becomes the member-secretary of the Commission, once it is constituted.
- A key new challenge for the 16th FC would be the co-existence of another permanent constitutional body, the GST Council.
- as the Council’s decisions on tax rate changes could alter the revenue calculations made by the Commission for sharing fiscal resources.
About Finance Commission
- The core of fiscal federalism is a body that is required by the Constitution.
- According to Article 280 of the Constitution, the President appoints members to it.
- On April 6, 1952, the First Finance Commission was established by presidential order and presided over by Shri K.C. Neogy.
- In order to break the cycle and comply with the Constitution’s requirement that a Finance Commission (FC) be established every five years, the 15th FC’s term was extended by one year, till 2025–2026.
- The 9th Finance Commission, established in June 1987, was the final FC to be given a six-year time limit.
- Core Responsibilities: It is the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to—
- the distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or maybe, divided between them and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds;
- the principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
- the measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State;
- the measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Municipalities in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State;
- any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance.
- The Commission determines its procedure and has such powers in the performance of its functions as Parliament may by law confer on them.
- Importance: Its working is characterised by extensive and intensive consultations with all levels of government, thus strengthening the principle of cooperative federalism.
- Its recommendations are also geared towards improving the quality of public spending and promoting fiscal stability.
- Current Commission: In light of the elimination of the Planning Commission (as well as the distinction between Plan and Non-Plan expenditure) and the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), which has fundamentally reshaped federal fiscal relations, the Fifteenth Finance Commission was established on November 27, 2017.
- Features: The present Commission’s terms of reference have certain special elements, such as suggesting trackable performance standards for significant national flagship programmes and considering the idea of creating permanent, non-lapsable funding for India’s defence requirements.
- A new dynamic has emerged as a result of the division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, one named Jammu and Kashmir and the other Ladakh.
- Source: TH
Grievance Appellate Committees (GAC)
• In accordance with the most recent revisions to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Center recently created three grievance appellate committees (IT Rules, 2021).
- The IT rules 2021 provide for:
- Creating avenues for grievance redressal apart from Courts and
- Ensure that the Constitutional rights of Indian citizens are not contravened by any Big-tech Platform by ensuring new accountability standards for SSMIs.
- Safety and trust of every Digital Nagrik
- Robust grievance redressal system to ensure accountability of all Internet platforms offering a service or product
Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC)
- It is essential for India’s Internet to be Open, Safe, Trusted, and Accountable. This is part of the country’s broader policy and regulatory structure.
- The GAC will be a virtual digital platform that only functions online and in digital form; as such, the whole appeals process—from filing an appeal to receiving a decision—will take place online.
- The online platform will be operational on March 1, 2023, one month after the Grievance Appellate Committee receives this notification.
- The need for GAC was created due to large numbers of grievances being left unaddressed or unsatisfactorily addressed by Internet Intermediaries.
- What is expected of it?
- To create a culture of responsiveness amongst all Internet Platforms and Intermediaries towards their consumers.
- Users will have the option to appeal against decision of the grievance officer of the social media intermediaries and other online intermediaries before this new appellate body.
- The Committee will endeavour to address the user’s appeal within a period of 30 days.
- In action:
- The procedure would also include regular evaluations of GACs, reporting, and dissemination of GAC orders.
Nobel’s Helen Butterfly
• Arunachal Pradesh recently gave birth to India’s newest butterfly.
- Myanmar, China to India:
- A swallowtail butterfly has been discovered for the first time in India after it vanished from its known territories in Myanmar, southern China, and Vietnam.
- Between September 2019 and September 2021, it is discovered from three areas in the Namdapha National Park of Arunachal Pradesh.
- Scientific name: It is an extremely rare Noble’s Helen (Papilio noblei) butterfly.
- Characteristic: It was once widespread in the montane forest at intermediate elevations in northern Thailand. It is most similar to the Papilio antonio from the Philippines and distinguished by a somewhat larger dorsal white patch.
- Significance of butterfly:
- Butterflies are considered vital indicators representing the state of biodiversity and key ecosystem functions.
Image Courtesy: TH
SCO Film Festival
- Recently, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Film Festival has highlighted the diversity of India.
- The SCO Film Festival is being held to commemorate India’s SCO Presidency.
- The festival is being organised by India with the intention of showcasing the diversity of films and different filmmaking techniques from the SCO region.
- Aim: To build cinematic partnerships, have exchange of programmes, nurture young filmmaking talent and act as a bridge between the cultures of this unique region.
- The SCO Film Festival 2023 commenced with the world premiere of the Tamil film “Appatha”.
- The film features National Award-winning actor Urvashi in the lead role and will be benchmarked as her 700th film and 51 years in the Indian film industry
- Official Language:
- The official language of the SCO i.e., Russian and Chinese will also be the official language of the SCO Film Festival Mumbai.
- Functional Language:
- English will also be included as the functional language of the festival as it is being hosted in India.
- Cinema in SCO Region:
- The SCO region is a confluence of diverse civilizations and a cradle of rich traditions of art and culture.
- This has been reflected in the cinemas made in SCO countries, which has been globally appreciated and awarded
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):
- The Eurasian Nations are a permanent intergovernmental international organisation with a secretariat in Beijing.
- It is a political, economic and military organisation that aims at maintaining peace, security and stability in the region.
- Origin: Journey from Shanghai Five to SCO
- Shanghai Five emerged in 1996 from a series of border demarcation and demilitarization talks between 4 former USSR republics and China.
- Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
- With the accession of Uzbekistan to the group in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
- The SCO Charter was signed in 2002 and entered into force in 2003.
- Inclusion of India & Pakistan:
- Pakistan and India both started out as observer states.
- In 2017, both received full membership.
- Iran and Belarus:
- 2021 SCO summit in Dushanbe agreed for Iran to join the SCO.
- Belarus has also begun the membership process for SCO.
|Member states||Observer States||Dialogue Partners|
- The Australian start-up Rumin8 is creating a dietary supplement that uses red seaweed as a source of synthetic material to limit the formation of methane.
- To reduce methane emissions, the second-highest producer of greenhouse gases after carbon dioxide, the company is anticipated to perform research on nutritional additives for animals.
What is Methane?
- Methane (CH4), which has only one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, is the most basic hydrocarbon.
- It is the primary gas found in natural gas and is a colourless, odourless, and extremely combustible gas.
- Because it is such an effective heat absorber, it is a significant greenhouse gas. Since 1750, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased by around 150%, reportedly mostly as a result of human activity.
- Methane makes up roughly 20% of worldwide emissions and is the second most common anthropogenic GHG after carbon dioxide (CO2).
Methane release in ruminants
- Ruminants are the main contributor to agricultural emissions of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4), which is the main cause of global warming.
- Ruminants, in contrast to other animals, have sophisticated digestive systems that include stomachs with four rather than one compartment.
- Plant material is first transported to the rumen, the stomach’s largest chamber, which is home to fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and archaea.
- In exchange for food and shelter, these bacteria decompose the cellulose-rich plants, which are otherwise indigestible, to produce protein and energy for their host animal.
- However, a specific bacterium, the archaea, uses the CO2 and hydrogen produced by the cellulose-digesting microorganisms to combine to create methane throughout this process, which scientists refer to as enteric fermentation.
Other Sources of Methane
- Animals are not the only source of agricultural methane. Another 8% of emissions attributed to humans come from paddy rice production, where flooded fields prevent oxygen from accessing the soil, producing ideal circumstances for bacteria that produce methane.
- The production and transportation of coal, natural gas, and oil also releases methane into the atmosphere. Methane emissions are also caused by other agricultural activities, land use, and the decomposition of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
Emission by India
- India is currently the world’s fourth largest methane emitter after China, the United States and Russia.
- India has the world’s largest cattle population and is the second largest rice producer, the agriculture sector emits five times as much methane as the energy sector.
- Agriculture accounts for 61% of total methane emissions, while India’s energy sector accounts for 16.4% and waste 19.8%, as per the Global Methane Tracker 2022.
How does Methane Emissions affect the Environment?
- Methane is the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant and greenhouse gas, exposure to which causes 1 million premature deaths every year.
- Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
- Methane has accounted for roughly 30 percent of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
How much methane can we really cut?
- Unlike methane, which decomposes quickly and is mostly gone after a decade, CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries, allowing for immediate action to significantly slow down the rate of global warming.
- Within a decade, methane emissions caused by humans might be cut by up to 45%. This would help keep the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C and put the world on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets by preventing almost 0.3°C of global warming by 2045.
- The consequent decrease in ground-level ozone would also avert 25 million tonnes of crop losses, 73 billion hours of lost labour from high heat, 260,000 premature deaths, and 775,000 hospital visits related to asthma.
Steps Taken by India to reduce Methane Emissions
- India Greenhouse Gas Program: Launched in 2012, Led by WRI India, Confederation of India Industry (CII) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is an industry-led voluntary framework to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions.
• Since 2014, the National Cattle Mission has included balanced feeds for livestock as one strategy to “help minimise methane emissions from livestock.”
• The New National Biogas and Organic Manure Programme, established in 2017, and the Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources (Gobar-Dhan) programme, launched in 2018, both offer incentives to farmers for the recovery of cattle manure for use in the creation of bioenergy.
• Several other initiatives, such as Direct Seeded Rice, which can reduce methane emissions by using less water during the initial paddy cropping, and Waste to Energy Plants, which will produce biogas from municipal, urban, and industrial solid waste, among other sources, will indirectly reduce methane emissions.
- Seaweed-Based Animal Feed: The Central Salt & Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI) developed a seaweed-based animal feed additive formulation that aims to reduce methane emissions from cattle.
- Anti-methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD): Methane emissions from cattle can be reduced by 17–20% using a technology created by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
- Bharat Stage-VI Norms: Recently, India has shifted from BS-IV to BS-VI emission norms. Compared to the BS4, BS6 emission standards are stricter.
Global Efforts to cut methane emissions
- Global Methane Pledge: The Global Methane Pledge was established at COP26 in November 2021 and is currently supported by 111 countries that collectively account for 45% of the world’s human-caused methane emissions. Countries that sign up for the Pledge agree to cut their methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.
- New Zealand is also one of the first nations to come up with policy-related solutions in October 2022, it proposed taxing the greenhouse gases that farm animals produce from burping and urinating.
- • Researchers are also looking for gene-modifying methods to reduce these animals’ methane output. Scientists in New Zealand declared they had launched the first genetic programme in history to breed sheep with fewer methane emissions in an effort to combat the problem of climate change.
- Use of Seaweed: 2021 study, published in the journal PLUS ONE, found that adding seaweed to cow feed can reduce methane formation in their guts by more than 80 per cent.
• Farmers can feed their animals more nutrient-rich feed to make them bigger, healthier, and more productive so that they can produce more with less.
• Researchers are also experimenting with different kinds of feed to lessen the amount of methane that cows emit, as well as better ways to handle dung, such as covering it, composting it, or utilising it to create biogas.
• For staple crops like paddy rice, scientists advise using different wetting and drying techniques that might cut emissions in half.
• Paddies might be irrigated and drained twice to three times during the growing season, minimising methane production without affecting yield, as opposed to permitting fields to be continuously flooded. Additionally, such method would use a third less water, making it more cost-effective.