India to take green revolution to eastern drylands


Source: SciDev.Net

India will plough US$86 million into extending its green revolution to the eastern drylands.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee presented the country's 2010–11 budget in parliament today (26 February).

Unlike the first phase of the country's green revolution — which introduced high-yielding wheat varieties that need a lot of irrigation, fertiliser and pesticide — India will now focus on drylands where there is little water available for irrigation.

An additional US$43 million will be invested in a climate-resilient agriculture initiative.

'The gains already made in the green revolution areas have to be sustained through conservation farming, which involves concurrent attention to soil health, water conservation and preservation of biodiversity,' said Mukherjee.

He said that a draft food security bill addressing these areas would be released 'soon'.

Mukherjee also announced a national fund for innovative clean energy projects. He proposed an 'energy tax' on companies, to finance the clean energy fund, of about US$1 for every tonne of coal produced or imported into the country.

Indian crop expert M. S. Swaminathan welcomed the agriculture-related announcements, saying that the finance minister 'for the first time in recent years has laid out a roadmap for agricultural recovery and progress'. He praised the attention paid to conserving the 'ecological foundations' on which sustainable, conservation-led, climate-resilient farming is based.

Elsewhere, the country's national solar energy project, which aims to add 20,000 megawatts of power by 2020, received a funding increase of two-thirds.

Investment in the project will increase from US$134 million in 2009–10 to US$216 million. Mukherjee also announced additional financial incentives for establishing solar lighting and heating systems, as well as for other renewable energy sectors such as wind and geothermal energy.

The increase comes on the heels of the Indian government's plans to realise the country's solar energy ambitions via a network of hubs for solar research (see India's prime minister unveils 'solar valley' vision).

Solar power receives the largest increase among 12 key science-related sectors — including atomic energy, space, agricultural research, medical research, earth sciences, and environment and forests — for which total funds will rise by one fifth, from US$641 million in 2009–10 to US$772 million. The Ministry of Science and Technology's total funds have also increased by one fifth.

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