Saturday, February 5, 2011

Look to the sea to ensure food security:Experts

Next time you help yourself to some sea  food, you could be helping save the planet. Agricultural experts believe that in the wake of rising sea level and shrinking cultivable land in the country due to climate change, sea could be the key to ensuring food security.

"The rising sea has eaten away lands, especially farmlands. In fact, large tracts of farmlands in the coastal belt of the state, especially Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, were lost due to inward movement of the sea. Besides, the increase in population is also compelling people to convert farmlands into residential and industrial areas," professor RV Rama Rao, member, National Technical Advisory Group of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), told TOI on Friday on the sidelines of the third round table on climate change, agriculture, sustainable development and public leadership.

The two-day-round table, organised at the Sathyabama University, is discussing the degrading impacts of climate change on agriculture and sustainable development. Besides, it will also focus on food security and role of food from the sea to meet the requirements of growing population in the country.

"As the often-forgotten source of food security and livelihood, fisheries should be included in the ongoing discussion on how the world's most vulnerable can adapt to climate change," said Rama Rao, who is also director, Institute of Development and Policy Studies.

In his message, governor Surjit Singh Barnala said the impact of climate change on agriculture was leading to a decline in crop yields, which would cause India an annual loss of 125 million tons of food grains equivalent to 18% of the country's rain-fed production. "Although regional climate forecast are improving, they are still uncertain. A warmer atmosphere results in a great number of tropical storms, extreme heat waves, floods and droughts," Barnala said.

According to statistics, around 65% of the total population in the country is either engaged or employed in the agriculture sector. However, since 1991, per capita food availability in the country has declined from 177kg to 155kg annually. One of the reasons for this decline is attributed to encroachment by the sea.

Experts pointed out that as against the agriculture sector (including allied activities), which accounted for 15.7% of the GDP in 2008-09 compared to 18.9% in 2004-05, fish production has increased from 7.1 million tons in 2007-08 to 7.6 million tons in 2008-09. In fact, fishing, aquaculture and allied activities provided livelihood to over 14 million persons in 2006-07 apart from being a major foreign exchange earner. Over 36 million people world wide are directly employed in fisheries and aquaculture, and 98% of them are in developing countries.

Food scams claim two ministers in Orissa in a decade

Exactly a decade after the sacking of a minister from the Naveen Patnaik government in Orissa over alleged irregularities in supply of food items to schools and anganwadi centres, another minister of Women and Child Development Department quit the post today.

Pramila Mallick was the second Women and Child Development Minister in the state after Kamala Das to have faced the music for supply of substandard quality food items.

While Das was sacked from the ministry by Patnaik over the fortified salt scam in 2001, Mallick had to resign from the post in the wake of a multi-crore dal scam.

Das was involved in a Rs 2-crore salt scam and the amount involved in the dal scam over which Mallick had to step down was to the tune of Rs 700 crore.

Das had been convicted by a Special Vigilance Court for entering into a criminal conspiracy with a private salt supplying firm. She was accused of obtaining pecuniary benefit by illegal and corrupt means using her official position.

Investigation by the state's anti-corruption Vigilance Department had meanwhile, detected supply of substandard pulses to schools and anganwadi centres.

WCD set up in 1995, was the nodal agency to supply dal, salt, rice and condiments to grass root level for mid-day-meal, supplementary nutrition programme and emergency feeding programme.