Top 5: States consuming chemical pesticides in India

The vast pesticide industry of India has, on one hand, ensured the optimal production of food & cash crops to support the food and nutrition security of the country, on the other hand, has hampered soil biology, entered food chain, killed species and caused hazards to human health. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, J&K and Haryana are top users of pesticides in India.

Pesticides have a crucial role in altering the natural fertility in the soil, damaging species and hampering pollinators which has a high cost on Indian agriculture. Over the years, the pesticide industry has only grown in the garb of the so-called ‘Green Revolution’ hand in hand with chemical fertilizers and high yield varieties that face multiple kinds of pest attacks. The recent data revealed by the Ministry of Agriculture for year 2021-22 holds that the consumption of chemical pesticides in India has only grown. The government has banned 66 pesticides in the country but many, including Monocrotophos, are being used in different formations and mixtures.

Rapid urbanization and industrial expansion has reduced land under agriculture across India. Agrochemicals are being employed by farmers to raise land productivity and maintain soil health. It’s the indiscriminate and uneducated use of chemicals, including pesticides, that hampers the soil and the species. Many experts hold that the pesticide industry has played a key role in ensuring that the country produces enough to feed the burgeoning population over decades. Some say that pesticides have allowed a balanced growth of the agriculture sector for the past six decades but there are certain costs attached with it whether environmental or social. All farmers use pesticides today, including the organic farmers. If there are no pesticides, half of India’s crops would be lost to pests and diseases. Let’s have a look at the top five states in terms of consumption of pesticides in India:

Maharashtra: The state of Maharashtra occupies top spot in terms of chemical pesticide consumption as it has used 13,175 metric tons (MT) in the previous financial year of 2021-22. It has consumed the highest pesticides in the past five years and it is rising every year in terms of absolute consumption. Deaths of farmers and farm labourers due to heavy use of pesticides in farms – mainly cash crop farms – make headlines quite regularly in Maharashtra. Hundreds die each year in the state due to direct exposure to the pesticides in the fields. Yavatmal district reports highest deaths. One key reason for high pesticide sprays in the state is that the farmers do not have adequate knowledge for using pesticides and their quantities. Farmers purchase pesticides for cereals also like jawar, wheat, rice, soybean and sugarcane also. The cotton region of Vidarbha uses many pesticides. Many chemicals are being sprayed to control creepy crawlies. Fungicides, weedicides and nematicides too are in heavy demand in Maharashtra. One solace in the Maharashtra story is that the use of pesticides is declining due to continuous efforts of the state and central government towards awareness generation and role of bio-pesticides. In the fiscal of 2018-18, the pesticide use was over 15,500 metric tonnes in the state.

Uttar Pradesh: The largest state of India in terms of population that has the highest agricultural land among states in the country has sprayed 11,688 MT of chemical pesticides in the previous financial year. It has risen by 131 MT from the previous fiscal. As more areas are getting under irrigation through canals and tubewells, the income of farmers is rising and pesticides’ use is an investment by the farmers to raise the production levels further. The adverse effect found by the pesticides is that it has entered the food chain. It has disturbed even the wildlife. According to a research by the WWF, the pesticides are found in the bodies of dolphins and gharials of the state. Soil testing and promotion of organic farming is helping to keep the per hectare usage of chemical pesticides low in Uttar Pradesh.

Telangana: The twin Telugu speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh suffer with high use of chemical pesticides in their agricultural farms. The use of pesticides in Telangana has been high for a long time. In 2017-18, the use was 4866 MT and grew steadily to 5090 MT last fiscal. This implies that the use of chemical pesticide in Telangana farms has been constant. Over years, the residue of chemical pesticides has increased and made several crops even pesticides resistant. This turns into a vicious cycle of more spray requirements of the hazardous chemicals to ward off pests and diseases. Despite having a regulatory body in Telangana to regulate production and safety of pesticides, its ultimate use at the ground level couldn’t be checked. Recently, a group of scientists have held that indiscriminate use of such chemicals in Telangana farms will lead to new diseases in crops, damage soil biology, loss of yield and reduce quality of farm produce.

Jammu & Kashmir: The Union Territory is fourth in the list of highest users of pesticides in India with 4086 MT used in FY 2021-22. The use of chemical pesticides has increased drastically over the past two fiscals. In the 2019-20 fiscal, 2198 MT of pesticides were sprayed in the farms of the union territory. This rose to 3352 MT in just a year in 2020-21 and almost doubled in the previous fiscal. The key reason behind this sudden surge is that rapid transformation of agricultural land into dense orchards has led to more harmful chemicals like mancozeb, dithane, democron, synthetic pyrethroids, endosulfan, chlorpyriphos etc. This story has continued for the last 30 years mainly in fruits and dry fruits farms which has harmed human health in the form of malignant brain tumours, brain abscesses, tuberculomas, epilepsy and strokes.

Haryana: The state of Haryana is fifth largest user of pesticides in India with 4066 MT use in 2021-22. What should bother one is that Haryana is a small state in terms of area and hence, the per hectare usage of chemical pesticide necessarily be far greater than others. According to a recent study, most farmers in Haryana spray chemical fertilizer at least once in a week. It also says that the majority of pesticides in Haryana in particular are being sprayed unnecessarily increasing the input cost of farming. Since cattle rearing is a major economic activity, studies have found that chemical pesticides have augmented in the cattle through chemical-laced fodder. The pesticide use in Haryana has been constant for the past half a decade; neither rising nor declining.

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