Freedom from Govt for energy and water
The BCIL Alt Tech Foundation has launched an audacious project for coaxing life out of a land that is barren, receives less than half the Indian average of rainfall, and has the misfortune of not receiving the brunt of the monsoon.
The location: Village Vallur in Pavagada taluka of Tumkur district, due north of Bangalore.
Poorna Swaraj, as the project is called, is aimed at attaining independence from external grid energy, zero import of cultivation water, zero use of deep borewells that deplete groundwater systems, zero use of inorganic/ chemical-based/ synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that increase demand for water, zero soil contamination and raising of food crops that bring no poison to birds, livestock and human beings who eat these foods. 90 per cent of vulture species in the world have disappeared in the last 40 years because of such poisoning of foods — each lonesome bird preys over 40 sq km.
Poorna Swaraj Vallur will also secure freedom from use of seeds that are unnatural, hybridized or genetically modified.
The 46-acre expanse will demonstrate powerfully the harvest of minimum two crops instead of the rainfed single crop that most such lands with scanty rainfall offer in India. It will create an effective set of watershed management practices that utilize groundwater from shallow aquifers with open wells that are powered by solar pumps or with simple mechanical devices that make easy the drawing of water with human energy or is oxen-driven.
There is a clear return to the past, to the times of our grandfather. Going energy-free and with non-invasive organic fertilizers will heal the land and bring restorative processes that let the land offer greater yields with less effort over the longer term.
So what does Poorna Swaraj Vallur grow?
Millets and pulses that are primarily water-efficient. They need no more than 2 tonnes of water (2000 litres/kg). Cereals like paddy and wheat need 4 tonnes while sugarcane demands a staggering 14000 litres/kg.
Such insensate farm practices — fed by urban market needs — have led to massive water logging and soil salinity across irrigated parts of India and the rich doabas that flank the Ganga-Jamuna, the Godavari-Krishna, the Mahanadi-Tapti and such other once-fertile basins of India.
Poorna Swaraj Vallur is ambitious in its intent and in the daunting target that it has set for itself. Says Hariharan, Executive Trustee, BATF, “India has 60% of its cultivable lands in these non-monsoon, rainfed zones. The farmer looks at the sky and prays in futility. We need solutions that inspire relief for these silent millions.”
Poorna Swaraj Vallur will also achieve a sharp increase in productivity from the norm per acre of 1.5 tonnes of pulses and millets, to 2.5 tonnes. China has shown 3.5-4 tonnes an acre to be possible.
The crop pattern and production will be engineered with natural cultivation processes kicked into place with a combination of natural enhancers, drip irrigation system, nano technology based productivity inducers and farm management that is sensitive to nature’s demands while being functional on process needs.
Adds Hariharan, “Over 25 years of driving business that breach the barriers of economic possibility, the BCIL ZED Group has demonstrated powerfully many options for a better life. Our hope here, too, is that others will be inspired into doing what we do. We cannot change the world!”
Poorna Swaraj is backed by a phalanx of professionals. Thampi Sabari is a senior IT professional who is walking out of his current job soon to drive process and management. Ms Kartikeyan is a doctoral in watershed management from the Punjab University with 2 four-year stints at Oxford University and IGES, Kanagawa in Japan. Poorna Swaraj is also backed by operational mentoring from Harikrishna, President, ZED Communites, and Sridhar Lakshmanan, an IIM-A alumnus who is a staggering resource person on networking across India to secure ground-up technologies and systems that can bring efficiency.
Says Thampi Sabari, “It’s a God given opportunity. I think I have wasted 25 years of my life with commercialism. I wish I had someone to inspire me early in life. It’s never too late, though!”
Ms Kartikeyan adds, “It’s an exciting journey. I have a tough challenge handling demands of home and my passion at work. But no one can throw me out of this campaign kicking and screaming!”
Says Harikrishna, “Everything about what we do at BCIL is fascinating to me. The wealth of knowledge that springs from these amazing experts like Hariharan, Sridhar, and others, gives us the infinite joy of learning and doing. Walking the talk at ZED is the mission that I own and drive.”