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Prepare Now

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Even as India is in a more comfortable situation at the present as compared to many other countries regarding food supply, there is absolutely no room for complacency. This is because food production here depends in great measure on predictability of weather conditions. Inputs of science and technology have not provided the necessary shield to even moderate changes in weather, leave alone major ones. Matters have been made worse by disruptions in global supply chains due to the war in Ukraine. Failure to anticipate problems can create the kind of conditions that exist not only in basket cases like Pakistan, but even the European continent, where major shortages of certain food items have seriously impacted life.

The winter rains have failed in India’s north, this year. Temperatures have risen early, causing disruptions in not just the crop cycle, but also flowering and fruiting in orchards. Meteorologists have been unable to predict the weather accurately enough and are not sure at all about how the monsoon is likely to shape up. It has already been seen that the rains have been overall deficient in recent years. When it does rain, it does so heavily on fewer days, often with calamitous effect. Quite obviously, climate change has much to do with it, so local weather patterns are having diminished impact.

It has already become apparent in Uttarakhand, for instance, that the inadequate rain and snow this winter has led to lower flow in the rivers, which among other things will affect power generation in the dams. As a result, plans are already being made to arrange power from other sources, which if available will cost more. Higher temperatures will increase demand. The River Yamuna has already, over the past couple of decades, seen a high rate of depletion of the glaciers that supply it with water.

It becomes imperative that the Union and State Governments take strict measures to, first, ensure water conservation practices among the general public, particularly the high consuming middle classes. Secondly, agriculture scientists and institutes must evolve ways to help agriculturists transform practices – from right selection of crops to ways of sowing, irrigation and harvesting. Providing free electricity to tubewells, for instance, is certainly not the way to get over the crisis. Even the failure of one crop, or unsustainable ways of production, can put India on the back foot. And, as has been seen in the case of other countries, it is very difficult to recover once the process begins. In fact, with its huge population, the impact on India will be substantially greater.