Study environmental impact of tobacco cultivation

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During the review, experts informed the House panel that forests near tobacco cultivation areas are facing decline and loss of biodiversity. In several parts of the country, firewood is used to dry the green leaves.

The parliamentary panel on environment and forests has asked the Centre and environment ministry to study the environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation and curing, which is the process of drying tobacco leaves. The environment ministry informed the house panel that it has never studied environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation before. The house panel made these recommendations while reviewing ‘effects of tobacco curing on environment and health’.

During the review, experts informed the House panel that forests near tobacco cultivation areas are facing decline and loss of biodiversity. In several parts of the country, firewood is used to dry the green leaves. Around 6-8kg of fuel wood and 12kg of dried wood is required to cure 1kg of tobacco, which leads to depletion of forest cover. It was also pointed to the panel that as per latest state of forest report, 2014, the highest number of incidences of burning forests happens in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the topmost tobacco growing states in the country. For improving tendu flowers and fruit flushing, the whole tendu tree is burnt and huge amount of carbon dioxide is released, experts added.

While the burning of firewood leads to immense air pollution, toxic pesticides and fungicides are also used to grow tobacco. During the review, Central Pollution Control Board, informed the panel that tobacco cultivation results into felling of trees, soil degradation and land pollution due to the use of pesticides.

The house panel noted that tobacco cultivation and curing is not only destroying forests but also contributing to greenhouse effect. It said that solar energy, bio gas and electricity use should be promoted to dry tobacco leaves and asked environment ministry to regulate area under tobacco cultivation to make it fuel efficient.

India is the third-largest producer of tobacco in the world, producing around 800 million kg of tobacco every year and accounts for more than 12% of the world’s raw tobacco production. The major tobacco producing states of India are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, with Karnataka responsible for 80% of India’s tobacco production. Currently, Indian tobacco is exported to more than 80 countries. In the year 2010-11, the total area under tobacco production in the country was 2,58,229 hectare which has been reduced to 1,94,671 hectare in the year 2014-15.

Source: Daily News & Analysis

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