Why should National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) launch a campaign to plant trees throughout India? As part of World Environment Day celebrations, the Chairman of NDDB launched the initiative to plant trees through 1,60000 village co-operative milk societies spread across 190 dairy co-operative unions. If NDDB succeeds in its new campaign, India will have 1.6 crores of new trees.
Why NDDB launched such a campaign? Is it just because “dairy farmers have significant economic interests in promoting planting of trees and maintaining fodder resources in private and common lands” as NDDB Chairman pointed out at the launch function? He said that “water and fodder resources of the country are being seriously impacted by the loss of green cover”.
NDDB has joined hands with the ‘Green India Movement’ initiated by the ‘National Mission for Green India’ to ‘protect, restore and enhance India’s green cover and respond to the climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures’.
The terms climate change and global warming are often used interchangeably. Global warming is the increases in the average temperature of earth resulted out of greenhouse gases buildup in the atmosphere. A greenhouse gas is one which can absorb infrared radiation and trap and hold heat in the atmosphere.Thus greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect which leads to global warming. And global warming is a cause of climate change. The greenhouse gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chloroflurocarbons.
The climate change refers to the long term effects of global warming as changes in rainfall patterns, rise in sea level, heat waves and impacts on plants, animals and humans. The livestock remains a sufferer of the climate change. At the same time, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to the global warming and subsequently to climate change itself. A dairy cow produces approx. 400 grams of methane per day, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from an automobile driven 20,000 kilometres in an year. And methane traps 21 times more heat than CO2. India’s 480 million livestock produce an estimated 11.75 million metric tonnes of methane annually. “Carbon dioxide is assigned a global warming potential equal to 1 while methane has a global warming potential of 21, which means a ton of methane emissions contributes 21 times as much warming as a ton of carbon dioxide emissions over 100 years” (https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/indicators/). As the number of animals is on the rise, so is the greenhouse gas production.
Heat stress, under-productivity, and poor reproductive capacity are among the adverse effects of climate change on livestock. The milk production is expected to be reduced to the tune of 1.6 million tonnes by 2020 and 15 million tonnes by 2050. Climate change affecting the agriculture will definitely reduce the availability of feed and fodder. In a country like India with a vast seashore, a rise in sea level may result in loss of cultivable land which in turn affect the livelihood of the farmers. An average of 10-25 cms rise in sea-level is reported in the 21st century and affected coastline, islands and wetlands.
The vast deforestation and burning of fossil fuels cause increase in level of carbon dioxide, a precursor to global warming and climate change. But planting of trees can mitigate the problem to a certain extent. The trees use CO2 of the atmosphere together with the sun’s energy for the photosynthesis. More trees mean more removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. When compared to preventing de-forestation, planting of trees may not yield immediate results. Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the tree planting could sequester around 1. to 1.5 1.1–1.6 GT of CO2 per year against the total global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 50 GT of CO2. As they grow, trees take carbon dioxide out of the air and transform it into roots, leaves, bark, flowers, and wood. Over the lifetime of a tree, several tons of carbon dioxide are taken up. By providing shade and transpiring water, trees lower air temperature and, therefore, cut energy use also.
So if all the 100 saplings grow into trees at 1.6 lakhs village co-operative societies and each tree cuts down 40 lbs of CO2, around 348358 metric tonnes of CO2 will be sequestered by them. It may be negligible compared to the the quantum of methane, the Indian livestock produce annually. Still, the move of NDDB is laudable.
But measures like changes in feed strategies, feed additives, management practices are reported to be helpful in reducing the methane production from livestock. Scientific studies found that down-sizing the under productive animals can cut down the methane emission but introducing high producing animals can maintain status quo in milk production.(https://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/science-publications-and-resources/technical-factsheets/reducing-methane-emissions-from-livestock/?id=1305058576718). Will NDDB think on these lines too?
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