Satellite images reveal how aquaculture takes over agriculture in AP

Highlights

  • Satellite images reveal extent of damage to other crops
  • State tops in export of fish products

Vijayawada: The rice bowl of India is slowly turning into the country’s ‘fish’ bowl. Satellite images reveal how aqua-farms are displacing paddy fields across Andhra Pradesh, thanks to the booming fisheries industry.

Andhra Pradesh tops in exports of fish products, with Rs 16,372 crores in the year 2018-19 alone ($2372.32 million).

Freshwater agriculture began in the State in the 1970s, while brackish aquaculture was introduced a decade later. Today, with a mindboggling production of around 4000 tons of marine products, it ranks highest in India.

To encourage this industry, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy declared power supply to these farmers at Rs 1.5 per unit, as against Rs 7 per unit for commercial purposes.

However, in the process, it is the soil of Andhra that is bearing the brunt. With a rapid shift from agriculture to aquaculture, several environmentalists allege that brackish aquaculture (saline water farming) is leading to groundwater contamination and loss of livelihood for labourers.

Bhimavaram, fondly called the aqua-capital of India, is also home to major marine product processing industries. The rapid industrialization and subsequent demand for the goods go hand-in-hand with the increasing patronization for aquaculture.

G. Rohith, an activist from Human Rights Forum (HRF) is of the opinion that excessive shrimp-farming has turned the land barren and soil infertile for other kinds of farming.

“This is especially in Krishna, East and West Godavari districts, where there is a loss of groundwater sources, as well as innumerable livelihoods. Aquaculture requires only one person, unlike traditional farming, which is labour-intensive. The biggest losers are the landless, most of who happen to be Dalits.”

He added, “The guidelines put forth by Coastal Aquaculture Authorities (CAA) are flouted by most farmers. This is why aquaculture has increased. Moreover, on any given day, this is more sustainable in terms of profits and climatic conditions. Even worse is that a lot of mangroves were cut down for this brackish cultivation, but not much has been done address the fall-out.”

P. Koteswara Rao, Principal of State Institute of Fisheries Technology, Kakinada, is of the opinion that there are problems in the proper enforcement of aquaculture guidelines.

“One of the problems is that local drains are getting filled up due to post-harvest discharge. This needs to be attended to on a priority basis. Now we are also doing aqua-zonation, to identify which land is more suitable for aquaculture. This will help address the problem of contamination of fertile lands.”

In February 2019, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had commissioned the Godavari Mega Aqua Food Park at Tundurru village in Bhimavaram, making it the first Mega Aqua Food Park exclusively set up for fish and marine products processing in Andhra. However, in September, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) to take action against the park as per the recommendations of the Central Pollution Control Board and APPCB. The question still remains as to whether this development is happening at the cost of others.

 

 

Amritha Mohan

Amritha Mohan is a reporter at the NewsMeter. Shortly after completing her Master's in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, she began teaching courses on media and culture as a guest lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. Amritha has previously interned with news organisations such as Greater Kashmir and Newslaundry. A lover of travel and photography, she spends most of her time planning road trips to the North-East. Nothing makes her happier than a green turf and a team to play football with. She primarily reports on education, tech, human-interesting and critical features.

2 comments on "Satellite images reveal how aquaculture takes over agriculture in AP"

  • Agriculture Pollution

    After return from my UN assignments, a journalist friend introduced me to Prasad Reddy in Vaartha. He asked me whether I can write to Vaartha then he will start a column on agriculture. I started writing to Vaartha on different issues of agriculture.

    Internationally, it was noticed that over fishing in the oceans. To balance the losses, internationally introduced fishing holiday for around three months and fresh seeding of fish and prawns were carried out in the oceans.

    On October 29, 1998 present an article on “Aqua culture impact on Environment in global context and India more specifically Andhra Pradesh coastal belt. They used to get sea water in to the aqua ponds and release the waste water back in to sea. This affected the coast line and sea-life in coastal water. As these are light soils, it affected the ground water and neighbouring agriculture lands. While locals are fighting against this menace, government is providing subsidized power, a bad policy in terms environment and people,

    With the time aqua farms started using fertilizers. This aggravated the pollution. Fertilizers are highly subsidized input in agriculture after 1960s. The fertilizer is illegally procured and used in aqua farms, country liquor manufacturing, etc. In this context I wrote a letter to PM [Dr. Manmohan Singh] and Planning Commission Vice-chairman on the black marketing of the fertilizers to the tune of more than 30% by industry and retailers level by depriving poor farmers and suggested to transfer subsidy directly to farmers to minimise the black marketing of subsidized fertilizers. This is also true with Kerosene and Gas and creating environmental problems. Now the government is implementing this by direct transfer of subsidy on gas but the case of fertilizer it is very slow – yet PM Narendra Modi said this saved more than Rs. 40,000 crores the subsidy component.

    However, chemical fertilizers use in agriculture is the main component non-point sources of water pollution around the world. In USA the river Mississippi carry the agriculture runoff in to sea. This has resulted dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico. When environmental groups started movement against this pollution in 1970s vested groups’ masque this with global warming. We have seen this at Paris Meet in December 2015 [COP21] and now in Madrid meet [COP25].

    TDP government initiated corporate agriculture and released a White Paper on Agriculture along with Vision 2020. On request from Congress Party CLP prepared a black paper in which suggested organic farming under cooperative system of agriculture – along with irrigation & free power [as major share of irrigation is through wells/bore wells], etc. This was released on 15th February 2001. After Congress came to power in 2004, they proposed to implement cooperative farming with organic inputs wherein farmers themselves should form in to groups and decide the crop pattern according to local weather conditions but the consultant prepared with the title cooperative farming but presented corporate farming. On this wrote a letter to CM [see The New Indian Express dated 24-07-2009]. There ended. In India one state is fully organic but vested groups are forcing the government to implement chemical fertilizer technology. This is the Indian politics as the pollution helping them pocket thousands of crores.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

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