When one utters the word cannabis in India, the person’s reaction would usually be one filled with concern and trepidation. The first thought a lay-man would conjure would be either of bhaang during Holi or a funky image of Bob Marley. However, what if we were to turn the pyramid on its head and view cannabis or hemp as an opportunity for India to reclaim its past glory with the crop steadily gaining a repute as a multi-purpose plant (natural fibres, oil seeds, medicinal flowers/leaves). This could help reinvigorate our agriculture story for decades to come?
How can that be done? Incidentally, this question hasn’t stopped more than 45 countries across the World in empowering the sustainable local industry to utilise hemp across over 15,000 industrial and medicinal uses as a strategic and economic tool for their rural agrarian communities. Thereby effectively contributing immense income and livelihood improvement.
Case in point, in China thousands of farmers had risen above the poverty line over the last decade just by cultivation and commercial development of hemp. The fibre can be used for sustainable textiles/paper/concrete, the seed for superfoods/bio-fuel or the flower for medicinal use.
Similarly, countries such as Canada have developed a fullfledged system to provide access of cannabis (in different forms) to many patients suffering from an array of serious illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Parkinson’s.
The present global industrial hemp market is estimated at $4.1 billion whereas the global medical cannabis market is estimated at closer to $12 billion, with India’s contribution estimated at 0.0001% whilst China’s is closer to 70%. This has led to a question about India’s potential to contribute more effectively across this sun-rise global economy around cannabis which gradually saw the birth of an early-stage sustainable industry in the country over the last eight years.
When considering the potential future of a cannabis industry in India, there are positive realities. For example, some of the first historical references to cannabis growth/cultivation in the history of human civilisation traces back to the upper and middle Himalayas. Even in the present day the ubiquity of natural cannabis growth is deeply understated (with an estimated 60% of all districts in India seeing the natural/ wild growth of cannabis).
Similarly, centuries-old Ayurvedic, Siddha, Unani texts highlight the nutritional and therapeutic use of the cannabis seed and leaf (colloquially called bhaang). Even till today, in many parts of rural North/Northeast, the fibre of wild-growing hemp plants are either used to make handloom shawls or rope for cattle, the seeds from wild growing hemp plants are still used as an ingredient in making chutneys and vegetable dishes.
However, what additionally makes cannabis stand out even from an agriculture point of view are the significant potential agronomic benefits its cultivation brings. Some of these include lesser usage of pesticides/herbicides compared to other conventional crops, significant soil improvement during cultivation due to the phytoremediation capabilities of its roots and waste biomass material recyclability.
In Europe and North America, hemp grown for fibre is considered a low input and low environmental impact crop. It’s based on a calculation of the complete life cycle of production which includes not only the direct impact of hemp production on the environment but also the impacts associated with the manufacture and transport of those inputs needed in hemp cultivation. For example, a crop that requires chemical fertilisers and pesticides would be “charged” for the environmental costs associated with the manufacture, transport, and storage of the chemical inputs in calculating the crop’s total life cycle impact. Hemp grown for fibre requires fewer chemical inputs than most other fibre crops; it has a lower life cycle impact than other fibre crops like cotton. This results in a net environmental benefit.
Similarly, several qualities of Hemp make it an attractive raw material for papermaking: Hemp fibres are long (lending strength to paper) and hemp contains high levels of cellulose (corresponding with high pulp yield from the raw stalk) and low lignin content (an undesirable constituent that requires intensive processing to remove). Due to both its chemical and physical composition, hemp can produce high pulp yields and can be pulped without the use of the Kraft process (used for chemical pulping of wood and long-fibre speciality papers) which uses environmentally toxic sulfur compounds. Also, as with other non-wood pulp, hemp can be bleached with peroxide and through other processes that do not involve chlorine. The environmentally preferable pulping processes are those, such as the Organosolv process, where processing chemicals and waste products can be recovered and reused either within the pulping mill or as marketable byproducts like fuel or fertiliser.
Being mindful of all these environmentally sustainable factors, combined with the inherent risks and cultural stigmas around hemp/cannabis in India, establishing it as the next generation of cash crops would require cooperation and collaboration with the entire ecosystem that it takes to create an industry. It includes experienced policymakers, bureaucrats, scientists, academicians, narcotics experts, agriculture farmers and industry.
The writer is co-founder and director of strategy & collaborations, Bombay Hemp Company.
Edited: By Ambika Hiranandani
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Intense rains in Delhi NCR to continue says IMD
Delhi NCR is witnessing intense rainfall for the last two days and it has brought a noticeable change in the temperature. The rains will continue in the coming days as per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), India.
The continuous showers have waterlogged many areas causing traffic jams in Delhi, Gurugram, and Noida regions.
The minimum temperature in Delhi, on Friday is supposed to be 23 degrees and the maximum temperature is predicted to be 28 degrees.
Concerning the waterlogged roads and intense traffic jams, the Gurugram administration issued an advisory asking private and corporate offices to work from home, while schools and colleges remained closed on Friday to avoid the hassle.
There has been a dip of seven degrees in the temperature in the NCR regions, making people feel the chill, especially during the night.
Even the air quality has improved so much in the city, according to the data from the Central Pollution Control Board. The AQI on Friday morning stood at 50, which is considered ‘very good.’
Massive landslide occurs in Achham district of Nepal; 22 killed, 10 injured
Due to a landslide in Nepal’s Achham district, about 450 km (281 miles) west of the capital city of Kathmandu, many homes were destroyed and many people have fallen victim to it as some of them are injured and some have lost their lives. Officials said on Sunday that the rescuers in Nepal battled against the torrential rains and pulled bodies from the wreckage of homes buried because of the landslide, and it has been reported that 22 people have lost their lives while 10 have been injured so far.
According to the official data, at least 70 people have been killed and 13 have gone missing across the country in flash floods and landslides this year alone.
The police, military and volunteers are still looking for the missing people in Achham district. Authorities have recovered the body of a fisherman who was swept away due to the landlide and reached the Kailali district due to the overflowing Geta river.
Yagya Raj Joshi, an official in Kailali, said about 1,500 people displaced because of the floods were sheltered in public buildings.
Local media broadcasted images of swathes of farms inundated by flood waters, a destroyed suspension bridge and villagers wading through chest-deep water.
Light to moderate rain and gusty winds are expected to hit the national capital on Thursday
Delhi has seen a marginal dip in the temperature on Thursday morning as the national capital has witnessed light to moderate rain and gusty winds with a speed of 30–40 km/h. This even resulted in an improvement in air quality, which was classified as satisfactory.
The maximum temperature is expected to be around 30°C while the minimum is to be 25°C, which when compared to Wednesday was 33.6°C and 26.4°C respectively.
RK Jenamani, India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist, said a depression that formed over Odisha and moved towards northwest India sent easterly winds with moisture towards Delhi-NCR and led to a three-day spell of rain. He said, “As this depression has moved closer, we are seeing the effect of these strong easterly winds, which has led to an increase in the speed of surface winds locally. The moisture is also leading to cloudy skies, which has led to a drop in the mercury. “
The intensity of rain will reduce from Friday evening, with no rain expected from September 17 to 20.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was at 63 on Thursday morning at 7 a.m.
The monitoring agency, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, said on Wednesday that the satisfactory level of AQI is expected to last till Saturday. They said, “For the next three days, peak wind speed is likely to be around 14–29 km/h, causing moderate dispersion and AQI is likely to be within the range of’satisfactory’ due to expected light/trace rain spells.”
IMD predicts heavy rainfall in isolated locations
In its most recent weather update, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in isolated locations across Uttarakhand, east Rajasthan, West Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, Konkan, and Goa on Wednesday.
The weather service also forecasted isolated heavy rains, thunderstorms, and lightning in Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday, Jharkhand on September 18, and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on September 15 and 16.
East Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of central Maharashtra, and Konkan, as well as Goa, may see rain over the next five days.
On September 14 and 15, the Met Department warned of isolated very heavy rainfall over West Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of Madhya Maharashtra and Gujarat, and Konkan and Goa from September 14 to 16. According to the IMD, isolated extremely heavy rainfall is expected over ghat areas of central Maharashtra on September 15.
UN Secretary pays a visit to the flood areas of Pakistan
On the final day of a two-day trip to raise awareness of the disaster, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited several flood-ravaged areas in Pakistan.
Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains and glacier melt in the northern mountains have killed over 1,391 people and destroyed homes, roads, railway tracks, bridges, livestock, and crops.
Huge areas of the country have been inundated, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. According to the government, nearly 33 million people’s lives have been disrupted. The damage in Pakistan is estimated to be $30 billion, and both the government and Guterres have blamed the flooding on climate change.
The UN Secretary-General arrived in Sindh province on Saturday before flying over some of the worst-affected areas on his way to Balochistan, another badly affected province.
“It is difficult not to feel deeply moved to hear such detailed descriptions of tragedy,” Guterres said after landing in Sindh, according to a video released by the office of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“Pakistan needs massive financial support. This is not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of justice.”
Guterres was seated next to Sharif in a video released by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, looking out the window of an aircraft at flood-damaged areas. “Unimaginable,” Guterres said as he looked around at the devastation.
In July and August, Pakistan received 391 mm (15.4 inches) of rain, nearly 190% more than the 30-year average. The southern province of Sindh has received 466% more rain than usual.
Guterres stated on Saturday that the world needs to understand the impact of climate change on low-income countries.
“Humanity has been waging war on nature and nature strikes back,” he said.
“Nature strikes back in Sindh, but it was not Sindh that has made the emissions of greenhouse gases that have accelerated climate change so dramatically,” Guterres said. “There is a very unfair situation relative to the level of destruction.”
Cloudburst in Pithoragarh district, at least 50 houses submerged
At least 50 houses were submerged in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district after a cloudburst in Dharchula. A person was killed in a cloudburst that occurred near the India-Nepal border at around 1 a.m. on Saturday.
The aftermath and the Kali river in the area were captured on video. Pithoragarh Police shared a video clip on Twitter and stated that about 50 houses in Khotila village had been submerged. The video posted in the post showed the river in full rage.
In another post, the police warned residents against going near the river and advised them to avoid the river bridges. “It is very important to act with caution with the river reaching the danger level,” the post read.
According to Pithoragarh district magistrate Ashish Chauhan, one woman died. Water was said to have entered several homes. Another video shared by the Uttarakhand Police Fire Service showed a house collapsing into the river. Rescue efforts are underway, according to the fire department, the State Disaster Response Force, police, and administration.
Such incidents occur frequently in Uttarakhand, a hill state known for its pilgrimage sites, raising questions and concerns about climate change.
Several other states, including Karnataka and Maharashtra, are also dealing with flooding in various parts of their respective states. Recently, videos from Bengaluru showed flooded streets and helpless residents, reminding us that even metro cities are vulnerable and lack a mechanism to keep the civic system running in emergencies.
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