'India's food shortage may worsen'

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{image-food shortage_06052008.jpg news.oneindia.in}New Delhi, May 6: Even as US President George Bush blamed the increasing prosperity of Indian middle class for global food shortage and rising prices, the WHO said global warming and climate change is causing large scale loss of agricultural productivity agravating malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiency in the country.

According to WHO, due to global warming Himalayan glaciers are shrinking at the rate of 10 to 15 meters per year which would affect the water supply in India. The Ganges is expected to lose two-third of its July to September flow resulting in change in the productivity of arable land.

These changes will in turn affect one third of India's irrigated land. Water shortages will affect more than 500 million people. Large scale losses in agricultural productivity may in turn give rise to malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, it said.

''Cereal prices have been projected to increase more than three fold by 2080 as a consequence of decline in net productivity, due to projected climate change. Food insecurity and loss of livelihood are likely to be further exacerbated by the loss of cultivable lands and nursery areas for fisheries by inundation and coastal erosion in low lying areas of India. Global climate changes and variablity will give rise to malnutrition among children,'' WHO predicted.

It cautioned that malnutrition in India, which has already resulted in 47 per cent children being underweight and 79.1 per cent children of 6 to 35 months being anaemic, would further aggravate due to loss of productivity. About 57.8 per cet pregnant women and 56.1 per cent of ever married women in the age group fo 15 to 49 years are anaemic while 24.3 per cent of married men are anaemic, the WHO said.

It has projected that climate change would adversely impact the cereal production in India with 2 to 5 per cent decrease in yeild of wheat and maize for a temperature increase of 0.5 degree Celsius to 1.5 degree Celsius. In Rajasthan, a 2 degree celsius rise in temperature was estimated to reduce production of pearl millet by 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

If maximum and minimum temperatures rise by 3 degrees celsius and 3.5 degrees celsius respectively, production of Soyabean yields in Madhya Pradesh will decline by five percent when compared to 1998.

Agriculture will be worst affected in the coastal region of Gujarat and Maharashtra as fertile areas are vulnerable to inundation and salination.


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