Indian farmers struck by deteriorating conditions


by Micah Coto

Indian farmer K.V. Muniraju stands in the middle of one of his fields

CLIMATE change is one of the most serious challenges that the planet has ever faced.

From melting Arctic ice caps and raging wildfires, to plastic pollution that is choking our oceans and foreshores, precious and fragile ecosystems are being destroyed, leaving in their wake devastating consequences that are being felt around the globe.

In India, a country with one of the largest populations in the world, climate change’s worst effects are evident on farms.

With 65 per cent of the nation dependent on farming in some form, the impact has been stark.

One of India’s fastest-growing cities, Bangalore, used to be known as the city of lakes. Today those lakes are slowly drying up.

Within the city, it is now mandatory for households and apartment buildings to have rainwater-collection systems and sewage-treatment plants

Bangalore’s lakes were once the primary source of water for farms and villages all throughout the Karnataka region.

However, because of rapid urbanisation, rising climate temperatures and a lack of care, the city of Bangalore has had to resort to other means of water supply.

And, as many of the lakes started to dry up, people began to dig shallow wells near their homes. This eventually led to the construction of larger bore wells that dug deep into the earth to extract more water.

Coupled with this, large pipelines were put in place to draw water from the Cauvery River nearly 100km away. But these efforts have not been enough.

“Climate change hurts all farmers but those without irrigation are particularly vulnerable”
Vishnu Padmanabhan, Sneha Alexander & Prachi Srivastava, LIVEMINT

Within the city, it is now mandatory for households and apartment buildings to have rainwater-collection systems and sewage-treatment plants in place to collect and recycle whatever water they can.

For buildings and households that can’t afford these systems, a monopolising water tanker mafia delivers water from outside the city limits.

For some people, these tankers are their only hope of fresh water but, because of demand, the water tanker mafia can not only be pricey but also sometimes unreliable.


One of the sewage wells on K.V. Muniraju's farm
by Micah Coto
One of the sewage wells on K.V. Muniraju’s farm.

A mulberry farmer from the outskirts of Bangalore, K.V. Muniraju, explained how over the past 20 years it had been getting hotter and high temperatures were evident a lot earlier in the year, causing his crops to require more water for longer time periods.

He said he used to be able to water his crops and let them sit for a few days. But, in recent years, the extreme heat has seen the water evaporate a lot quicker.

This, combined with Bangalore’s water management crisis, has meant that Mr Muniraju  – and other farmers like him – have needed to find other ways to provide water for their crops.

Many have turned to using sewage water from nearby towns in an effort to make the most of what they can get.

For farmers, monsoons and suitable temperature ranges are essential for their crops.

But increasingly hot weather and disrupted rainfall patterns are severely limiting their yields.

Poorer farmers in regions with weaker infrastructure and less irrigation are most affected.

This goes to show that climate change is starting to have some serious effects across the globe.

For affected farmers in India, not much can be done but wait.


Words: Micah Coto
Images: Micah Coto / The Argus


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The original version of this story is one of 30 in a special online Climate Change edition of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students from a final-year course called Transmedia Storytelling.