Hyderabad: It can’t get more brazen than this! Twisting facts and tweaking figures, a section of agenda-driven media including a vernacular daily and a national newspaper have been making unscrupulous attempts to project Telangana’s emergence as the ‘rice bowl of the country’ as more of an environmental hazard than an achievement.
Culling out certain figures from a report by Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) on the impact of increase paddy cultivation, both these dailies singled out Telangana and sought to paint the State in bad light with one claiming that the paddy cultivation in the State produced ‘carbon-di-oxide equivalent to emissions from 30 crore vehicles’ while the other said it was equivalent to emissions from 2.17 crore vehicles.
The malicious intent behind such reportage is evident from the fact that there is no mention of a similar situation in Andhra Pradesh which was also included in the CSA study with same findings. It is a clear case of the media trying to tarnish the brand image of Telangana State which has been marching ahead at a rapid pace not only in agriculture but also on various other fronts including industry. Such reports are, perhaps, triggered by the inability to stomach Telangana’s achievements in a short span of seven years since 2014 when it was carved out of Andhra Pradesh. Then there are also other major paddy producing States like Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh, among others, in the country but this question of environmental hazard did not crop up earlier. Moreover, the reports suggests that paddy cultivation emits CO2 when in fact it is green house emissions.
The reports are based on the results of the second phase of the CSA study on the impact of increased paddy cultivation, and the report itself has no critical observations on the situation in Telangana save for advise to farmers for crop diversification. The study itself is aimed at guiding farmers in bringing down area under paddy, cotton and other water-dependent crops as well as discourage them to use fertilisers and shift towards cultivation oil seeds and horticultural crops, a shift that the TRS government has been consistently propagating among the farmers in the State.
CSA took up the research in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2019, considering a nation-wide trend in increased paddy cultivation. During the research, it was found that cultivation of paddy, cotton or any other crops which entail stagnant water in the fields emitted greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide which were 10 times more than crops like pulses, oil seeds or other horticultural crops.
“This phenomenon can be found in lakes, tanks and other water bodies as well. However, we quantified the greenhouse gas emissions and compared them to vehicular emissions as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to make farmers better understand its impact on environment,” CSA executive director GV Ramanjaneyulu told Telangana Today. As part of the third phase of the research project, the CSA has also expanded its research to Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra where paddy cultivation has been on the rise.
While the study reported that the greenhouse gases equivalent to 10 crore tonnes of CO2 or emissions of 2.17 crore transport vehicles a year, the national English newspaper exaggerated and misreported it as emissions equivalent to 30 crore vehicles. The report termed the CO2 emissions from paddy cultivation in Telangana as 5.65 kg per acre (methane and nitrous oxide combined) and quantifies that one crore acre of paddy cultivation results in 10 crore tonnes of CO2. If 5.65 kg of CO2 is produced per acre, then emissions from one crore acres adds up to 5.65 crore kgs, an not 10 crore tonnes. It is common knowledge that plants absorb CO2 and release oxygen, and not the other way around. As Sherlock would say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Moreover, similar results were found in the study conducted as part of the research in Andhra Pradesh, which was completely ignored. Though the vernacular daily which picked up the English daily’s report, tried to report facts, it projected it in a manner that would still trigger panic.
Speaking to Telangana Today, Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy said while he cannot validate the veracity of the research project, he definitely had doubts over the media reports published in the newspapers. “It appears to be an attempt to malign Telangana’s name as the largest paddy producer in the country. If the paddy cultivation really leads to emission of greenhouse gases on such a large scale, is Telangana the only State producing them? Other States too are producing paddy,” he pointed out, adding that rice was staple food for people in Telangana and other South Indian States. He reiterated that the Telangana government was pro-farmers and was taking measures to make farming remunerative.
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