After independence the use of fertilizers in India in the last 50 years has grown nearly 170 times. In 1950 use of fertilizer per hectare in India was 0.55 Kg but by 2001-02 this figure has increased to around 90.12 Kg per hectare. Green revolution during 1960s and subsequent increased intensification of agriculture were major causes behind this growth as seen in Fig. No. 1. Fertilizers and pesticides have become major cost of production in India along with the cost of other input like seeds, and labor cost (www.etagriculture.com/)
Fig: 1 Consumption of Total Plant Nutrient per hectare of Gross Cropped Area
Source: Adapted by authors from the data at www.indiastat.com
Given the differences in the intensity of agriculture and cropping patterns across the country there are wide variations in the extent of fertilizer consumption patterns across India. For instance states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have very high average fertilizer consumption per hectare in comparison to the states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Goa and northeastern states. Per hectare fertilizer use in Andhra Pradesh as high as 179.2 Kg in 2000-01 and on the other hand in most of Eastern states it was less than 10Kg per hectare and in Rajasthan it was only 29.78 kg/hectare. Unfortunately increase in chemical usage has not inevitably led to increasing incomes of the farmers at the same rate at which it enhanced the agricultural production costs (As seen in Fig. 2 & Fig. 3).
The marginal income from land because of additional unit of chemical fertilizer and pesticide is decreasing. Another reason for increasing cost is decreasing govt. subsidies on farm inputs. The fertilizer subsidy bill for 2002-03(BE) is Rs. 11,228 crore that is Rs.716 crore less than the revised estimate of Rs. 1,944 crore and budgeted expenditure of Rs12,808 crore for 2001-02 (Economic Survey, 2002-03).
Fig: 2 Trends in Economics of Fertilizer Input on Wheat Production in India (1971-2002)
Fig: 3 Trends in Economics of Fertilizer Input on Rice Production in India (1971-2002)
Source: Adapted by authors from the data collected at www.indiastats.com
Use of fertilizer in improper ratio of N: P: K is also a major problem for Indian agriculture. While the recommended ratio is 4:2:1 this ratio of N: P: K has been around 8.5:2.6:1. This “induces initial vegetative growth, susceptible to pests, diseases, lodging and causes poor floral induction and delayed maturity thereby reducing the yield” (Hegde N. G. 2000).
Other major input for Indian agriculture is use of various pesticides, like insecticides, weedicides, fungicides, rodenticides etc. As the cropping pattern is becoming more intensive use of these pesticides is also increasing. Consumption of insecticide in agriculture has been increased more than 100% from 1971 to 1994-95. For instance, insecticide consumption in India, which was to the tune of 22013 tonnes has increased to 51755 tonnes by 1994-95 (www.indiastat.com). Consumption of all of these pesticides in same duration has increased more than two times, that is from 24305 tonnes to 61357 tonnes.
Fig: 4 Consumption of Pesticides in India
Source: Indian Chemical Statistics 2000-01
But in recent past, change has been observed in trends of pesticides consumption. As a consequence of adoption of bio intensive Integrated Pest Management Programme in various crops the consumption of chemical pesticide (Tech. Grade) has come down from 66.36 thousand MT during 1994-95 to 43.59 thousand MT during 2001-02 with a reduction of 27.69%(Thirty Seventh Report of Standing Committee on Petroleum and Chemicals, 2002). Consumption pattern of pesticides in India is also very different from world. In India insecticide account for 76% of the total domestic market while herbicides & fungicides have a significantly higher share in the global market. There are wide ranges of regional variations in pesticide consumption in the country. In the year 2000-01, States of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh by consuming more than 5,000 MT (technical grade) pesticides annually come under category I state in consumption of pesticides. States viz., Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Orissa and Tamil Nadu, which consumed between 1000 MT and 5000 MT fall in the category II states. States viz., Assam Bihar and Himachal Pradesh that consumed pesticide between 100 and 1000 MT come under category III. States viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Delhi and Union Territory (UT) of Pondicharry consumed pesticides between 10 and 100 MT annually fall under category IV. States viz., Goa, Meghalya, Sikkim and UTs viz., Andman & Nicobar Islands, Candigarh, Dadara & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep consumed less than 10 MT pesticide annually as fall in the last category in pesticide consumption (Thirty Seventh Report of Standing Committee on Petroleum and Chemicals, 2002).
One of the consequences of indiscriminate use of pesticide is the adverse health impact on society in general and vulnerable population like children in particular. Some of the well-known health effects of pesticide exposure include acute poisoning, cancer, neurological effects and reproductive and developmental harm (CSE, 1997). The major causes of concern in this respect are bio -accumulation of pesticides and the prolonged time period that it takes to express the negative health consequences.