by Vivek Cariappa
The Deputy Commissioner and Dist. Magistrate, 6th Nov, 2013.
Ginger cultivation in Mysore district is growing exponentially this year as the projected prices have shot up. Agricultural irrigated lands are being leased at high rates all over.
Ginger growing in Mysore is taken up by growers from Kerala, who have come across the border because Kerala state has banned many of the toxic pesticides used in Ginger cultivation; furthermore, land and labour are cheaper here making the ginger crop even more lucrative.
Out of state cultivators avail ALL the agri subsidies given to our farmers ( e.g. Finance, irrigation, power, fertilizer, sprinkler and drip irrigation equipment subsidy, etc.) and the crop is harvested and taken back to Kerala without payment of any taxes of any kind to Karnataka. As if this was not bad enough, these contract farmers leave behind a plethora of problems ranging from health issues to toxic pollution of our local water bodies, soil, air and ground water.
Irresponsible usage of huge amounts of toxic chemicals , in certain cases, have in the past resulted in severe damage and extensive losses to certified organic farms and sericulture operations. The first step for Ginger cultivation is to change the PH by adding huge quantities of lime to the soil, making the soil highly alkaline: this is permanently devastating to other crops grown thereafter.
Ginger cultivation uses huge amounts of herbicides (2-4D being one of them) Roundup in particular , pesticides and fungicides. Some of them like 2-4D and Endosulfan are banned in India, the ban is enforced in Kerala as the toxicity has had disastrous effects on the people there.
Most of these chemical residues end up in local water bodies causing unseen pollution and direct poisoning of all life forms in the water. Those that survive carry lethal concentrations of toxins that effect human and animal health in insidious and long term ways.
Last year as the water levels in ALL our water bodies was exceptionally low, the actual toxicity levels ended up dangerously high with increased Ginger cultivation. This will have widespread effects as toxicity levels increase.
As a warning, take the case of Ginger cultivation along the Kabini, Taraka and Nugu rivers and in the Paddy fields irrigated by these 3 Dams, the water, along with its toxic wash off is being supplied for drinking purposes to towns and cities as close as Nanjangud and as far as Mysore and Bangalore. Even in the villages; one village on the river side upstream pollutes water for the one’s down stream.
This year ginger cultivators are paying upto Rs.50,000 per acre per year, and have extended their operations within and around the Notified Eco-Sensitive Zone (Bandipur National Park), what effect this will have on the surrounding wildlife is left to the imagination, as no one is paying any attention at the ground level.
Further, in H.D.Kote a lot of the land being leased belongs to the Scheduled Tribe (ST) people. This makes them landless labor on their own lands. The question here is WHO WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS HEINOUS CRIME?
I sincerely urge the Government of Karnataka, specially the administration of Mysore district to regulate Ginger cultivation carefully to ensure minimum damage to our general environment and specifically our soil, water and health – human and animal (domesticated and wild life). To not take pre-emptive action would not be just negligent but a willful destruction of our natural resources, biodiversity and the future lives of our population.
- All lease of land for Ginger cultivation must be legally registered with the revenue and agriculture dept. and the local APMC, only on issue of license should cultivation commence. Forest dept should restrict the areas under ginger cultivation in eco-sensitive zones and regulate the chemicals being used and its effects in terms of wash off.
Banned and highly toxic pesticides must be avoided. The relevant ban must be enforced and offenders punished according to law.
Ginger cultivation must be banned in eco-sensitive areas such as near forests, on the banks of lakes, rivers and dams.
Being a cash crop the harvested produce should be taxed according to state norms.
Ensure that license for Ginger cultivation is Not granted near Sericulture operations and silk worm rearing houses, and do not pollute certified organic farms.
Enforce the Legislation for penalizing the polluter for toxic pollution resulting from Ginger cultivation.
Ginger cultivation is cheap in Karnataka as the environmental costs have not been calculated and paid for as yet, that is why contractors from Kerala have been operating here. The pollution control board needs to make regular checks on Ginger growing farms to ensure existing laws are adhered to.
Mysore is not only a tourist hot spot, the district is an Internationally recognised Bio-Diversity zone, with forests and National Parks. The ill effects of excessive use of highly toxic chemicals here will show up only in the future, as it did in Kasargod dist. of Kerala, where use of Endosulfan had permanent damage on the people and environment, by the time the authorities reacted it was too late for many.
Can we hope to be more proactive here, and learn from our neighbors mistakes ?
Looking forward to an early response from you,
Halasur village, Birwal P.O. H.D.Kote taluk . 571121 . Mysore dt.
Vivek Cariappa is an organic farmer and Karnataka State award-winner