news Friday, May 08, 2015 - 05:30

At a time when the Karnataka government is contemplating a river diversion project in the state to provide drinking water to several water parched districts, water-intensive floriculture appears to be on the rise. According to horticulturalist Debjani Maitra, chrysanthemums require frequent and thorough watering of up to 40,000 litres of water per hectare and in summers it goes up to more than 70,000 litres of water per hectare. Jasmine and marigold also require similar amount of water. Roses on the other hand need approximately 8 million litres of water per hectare. “If these flowers are not given the specific requirement of water then it will have detrimental effects. They start wilting eventually and when the leaves dry up it reaches a point where it cannot be revived. They constantly need watering in order to grow well,” she says. These flower species are grown in districts like Chikballapura, Kolar, Ramanagara and Tumkur. Ironically, these are the exact districts in the state which are currently water-starved in Karnataka. With the Yettinahole Integrated Drinking Water Project progressing at a slow pace, water is a rare luxury for the people living here. According to the National Horticultural Database 2014, India exports most of the flowers produced to countries like United States of America, Netherlands, Germany, etc. and Karnataka is the second leading producer in cut flower production in India. The Hindu recently reported on the floriculture exports from Karnataka crossing the Rs 100 crore mark.  The Horticultural Report of Karnataka 2011 mentions that various districts have more than 1,000 hectares of land is dedicated to the growth of commercial flowers. With attractive subsidy rates, more and more farmers in the state are turning to floriculture as it has high demand and promises big returns. The report adds that chrysanthemum cultivation in Tumkur covers 1,162 hectares with its value being four crore and three hundred and sixty lakh rupees. In Kolar, rose cultivation occupies 556 hectares with the value of that land being eight hundred and twenty lakhs. Roses need clean chlorinated water in order to grow with proper nourishment. But many parts of Karnataka do not even have access to clean drinking water. In a report done by The Times of India, the state’s rural development minister and its former water resources minister, HK Patil says, “We are completely dependent on bore-wells, which are either drying up or supply contaminated water,'' as Karnataka needs up to Rs 52,000 crore to meet the needs of its growing population in terms of drinking water.  The disappearance of lakes in Bengaluru has a lot to do with this emerging water crisis. Out of the 927 lakes that once existed only 200 remain, V Balasubramanian, former additional chief secretary for the state government said in another report.  The News Minute spoke to Leo Saldanha, an environmentalist and co-ordinator of the Environmental Support Group Trust. He said that the initiative to make farmers shift to cut flower production took place more than a decade ago. He added that commercial flower production is highly unsustainable and extracts from the groundwater. “With growing demands from countries abroad and draconian land laws; this has become more of an industrial culture rather than agriculture. It’s similar to the way the British East India Company treated farmers like labourers. Here, the corporates are like their land lords. Districts like Kolar, Chikballapura, Tumkur and Ramnagara are a part of the dry districts in Karnataka. The government is only interested in its economic balance rather than its ecological balance,” he says.   Cultivation of such commercial crops is highly profitable and in order to encourage more people to cultivate such water intensive flowers, the state government has endorsed numerous schemes and attractive financial packages. The Indian government has taken numerous steps to increase the flower export as they have waived off several import duties on seed materials and tissue culture material. It is also working towards subsidising export duties of Indian cut flowers. “This has been going on for more than a decade. There will come a time in future when the farmers will realise this corporatisation of land and protest against it,” says Leo. Meeting the basic needs of people does not seem to be on the government’s agenda. As water reaches each flower stem on one end, the people still wait their turn to receive it.  

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