Sustainable Development in Northern India
The Punjab is India’s primary agricultural State, and thus very important in terms of food security and sustainability. Climate and agro zones range from sub-mountainous, to the rich alluvial plains and wetlands, to dry, arid zones. Forest cover is only about 6-7% of the total land, though government afforestation programs are contributing to the expansion of this figure. Recently with modern development, globalization and advancements in farming technology, traditional farming method are becoming more and more mechanized; less organic, more industrial. Being the breadbasket of India, the Punjab has more than 28 million people in residence with over 83% of the land under cultivation and a gradually decreasing availability of fresh water. Not only is more water in demand for the expansion of crops and livestock, but chemical pesticides and fertilizers are polluting these dwindling resources as well. Additionally, pesticide use has been proved to contribute greatly to the abnormally high cancer rate in much of the Punjab; the saddest fact of this appalling issue is that children are the greatest victims to this disease, some as young as 10 years old! Further environmental issues include air pollution, litter and the increasing use and discarding of plastics into the natural environment and rivers, soil degradation and forestation.
The situation in Punjab, though, is not without hope. Just last year the government banned the use of many key cancer-causing pesticides. Organic farming and renewable energy is a sector that is subsidized by the government, which indicates national/state support. On ground, our experiences have been even more positive. People are receptive to ConservEN’s mission and ideas. Some people have have shared plots of their land for organic cultivation, and children have come together with interns to collect trash and attend lectures on the harms of burning plastics and how to properly separate and dispose trash (Dholbaha Center, May of 2013). Farmers and industrialists alike have come by our operations to express their curiosity and interest in working with ConservEN. And though we are not yet expanding to such integrated and large projects, the future involvement with the local community is a promising goal.
Much of our work in the Janauri and Hariana communities will involve projects with migrant camps. Both camps we have engaged are primarily trash pickers by trade, though persons have been known to work in the agricultural and construction sectors. These people are prone to poor health, sanitation and disease, and lack food, land and water security. As so, they are open and eager, though initially wary, to work with the EduCARE organization to improve their standard of living and take part in sustainable development projects. We are currently hoping to build a trash storage and sorting facility that will give these family groups a safe and clean place to conduct their trade. Also, the OrgFarm project will be integrated with the Marginalized Community Empowerment project in which migrant camps will eventually own their own land and cultivate it, giving them food security and giving us the chance to teach organic farming methods and benefits.