Apr 13, 2009

Indian livestock & global warming

Beware_Indian Livestock Global warming is high on agenda everywhere these days. Be it the latest Earth Hour or the controversial Australian forest fire, its the most debated topic in recent times. But yesterday a news story at TIME caught my attention, there was a picture of an Indian cow below the words global warming. So i just gave it a go & i was surprised or say shocked at the facts revealed.
According to this story,
Indolent cows languidly chewing their cud while befuddled motorists honk and maneuver their vehicles around them are images as stereotypically Indian as saffron-clad holy men and the Taj Mahal. Now, however, India's ubiquitous cows — of which there are 283 million, more than anywhere else in the world — have assumed a more menacing role as they become part of the climate change debate.
By burping, belching and excreting copious amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas that traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide — India's livestock of roughly 485 million (including sheep and goats) contribute more to global warming than the vehicles they obstruct.

Author further quotes the figures released by Space Applications Centre in Ahmadabad that puts the pan-India livestock methane emissions inventory at about 11.75 metric tons up from about 9 million metric tons in 1994.

The reasons for high emission are the poor health of the cows & low quality of supplement being fed. Poor farmer is unable to spend on expensive dietary supplements & hence resorts to local and inexpensive feeds. Also due to high cost, foreign technologies remain unaffordable. With little to no health-care animals remain grossly undernourished & disease prone.
All is not bleak though. Farmers are being encouraged to feed Oilseed cakes which reduce methane production in cows. New supplements developed from herbs like Tea leaves are being tested. Plans are on to use Indian herbs like Reetha & Shikakai as additives to reduce methane excretion. Research is on to find out methane capture strategies. And then there are other old uses like Biogas production for lighting lamps & other energy purposes.

After having said all this, a question still remains in my mind, why this hue & cry now at foreign publications like TIME? If this was as serious an issue what was government & media (both Indian & foreign) doing all these years. Who do you think is responsible?

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2 responses:

sammythewizzy said...

I've been fishing around for a story like this on the web for the last 4 days but didn't find anything.. Great job fishing it out :)

Bovines causing global warming is the funniest I've ever heard of.. I mean come on,in that case we should start calculating the percentage of global warming caused by human burps and farts (pardon my language).. As far as climate is concerned I think it is better to control only the purely man-made sources like automobile emissions etc..

Dr Pushkar said...

Thanks Sam. Indeed its funny & shocking, they would definitely do well to focus more on those gazillions of gas that they consume on a daily basis.
Even better if they seriously focus on ways to reduce that instead of just passing the buck with temporary measures like carbon credit.