To some, environmental damage might sometimes seem like a distant, long-term issue. Not in India.Over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure due to plummeting water levels, the Belfast Telegraph reported today.
"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazineThe issues involved in farmer suicides in India -- an all-too common phenomenon -- are many and complex, from controversial dam projects and deforestation to predatory lenders and climate change. Another possibility, according to a poster on the TreeHugger Forum is a mass-failure of G.M.O. seed supplied by Monsanto.
"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well."
But at the core is over-drilling and irrigation. The "green revolution" that promised abundance in the 1970s was based on chemicals and high-yield seeds that demanded so much ground water that water tables have dropped dramatically. To dig deeper and deeper, farmers must borrow money for new equipment. When crops fail -- due in part to their intensive farming methods -- it is nearly impossible to dig themselves out.
The water and farming issues are, as always, central ones in the nationwide elections that began today.
Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association: "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death."
Mr Prakash added that the government ought to take up the cause of the poor farmers just as they fight for a strong economy.
"Development should be for all. The government blames us for being against development. Forest area is depleting and dams are constructed without proper planning.
All this contributes to dipping water levels. Farmers should be taken into consideration when planning policies," he said.
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