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The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) is the global union of soil scientists. The objectives of the IUSS are to promote all branches of soil science, and to support all soil scientists across the world in the pursuit of their activities. This website provides information for IUSS members and those interested in soil science.

International Conference on Soil, Water and Environmental Quality - Issues and strategies held during January 28 - February 1, 2005, New Delhi

The International Conference on Soil, Water and Environmental Quality – Issues and strategies, held during January 28-February 1, 2005 was organized by the Indian Society of Soil Science (ISSS). It was attended by 450 plus delegates from India and 28 foreign delegates representing 17 countries. At the inaugural function on January 28, 2005, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Government of India, was the Chief Guest. Guests of Honour were Dr. Mangala Rai, Secretary DARE & DG (ICAR); Dr.. J.S. Samra, DDG (NRM), Chairman of the Organizing Committee and President of the ISSS; Prof. S. Nortcliff, Secretary General, IUSS; and Dr. S Nagarajan, Director, IARI. In his inaugural address, Mr. Ahluwalia emphasized that solutions to the problems of soil, water and environmental quality were complex because of mounting demographic pressure, emerging global and national environmental challenges, developments in scientific knowledge not able to keep pace with newer problems, policies not commensurate with ground realities, weaknesses in the legal system and multiplicity of agencies handling the same problem, etc. He expressed optimism and exhorted the delegates to develop holistic solution to this complex problem.

Fifteen ICAR Institutes and four private partners displayed various exhibits besides the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Division of the ICAR. This material was very effective in explaining extreme weather events like drought, floods, cold/heat waves, super- cyclone and recent Tsunami disaster. Displays on mangroves, shelterbelts, salinity- tolerant varieties, crops, and trees facilitated discussion on the post-Tsunami and future management strategies. In all 39 oral presentations covering two plenary lectures, two evening lectures, five symposia sessions were made. Two hundred eighty-one poster presentations were made spread over three sessions. Three posters were selected for the Best Poster Presentation Award. The publications brought out on the occasion of the Conference included: i) Souvenir; ii) List of abstracts of papers for presentation; and iii) Abstracts of voluntary and invited papers. Printing of full length papers and late received abstracts is being planned and will be completed shortly.

The Conference was built around invited lectures, plenary lectures and poster papers. It technically comprised five symposia focusing on quantitative indices for soil and water quality, agricultural management practices, climate change, social impacts and strategies for sustaining resources quality.

Plenary session held on February 1, 2005 was chaired by Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers. In his plenary address Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, Government of India mentioned, that the total productivity and factor productivity in India is low largely because we are not able to attend to this living industry (agriculture) as we are probably attending to the dead industry like share markets and so on. Quoting extensively from the report, Serving farmers and saving farming submitted by the Commission to the Government of India, Dr. Swaminathan laid emphsis on development of Soil Testing network capable of monitoring soil, water and environmental quality; starting of renovation of the wells under million wells scheme; and expansion of integrated watershed management etc. Prof. S Nortcliff, Secretary General, IUSS expressed on the need of pressing for holding UN Soils Convention to accord the same high priority to soil preservation as was being currently given to climate change, biodiversity, etc.

Recommendations emanating from the Conference are:

1. Soil, water and biodiversity are our national wealth and heritage. Majority of our resources have been over-exploited and are in an advanced stage of degradation due to loss of organic matter, depletion of nutrients, over-exploitation of ground water and depletion of carrying capacity of pastures, grazing land and other open access or common property resources.

2. Total and partial factor productivity in agriculture has declined and even become negative in the Indo-Gangetic plains and other agro-ecologies. Enhancing input use efficiency for cost competitiveness and reducing pollution possibilities is urgent.

3. Enhancing water productivity by integrated management of its multiple use cycling/ recycling and farming systems is the highest priority of maximizing returns per drop of water.

4. About 80% of world agriculture is already rainfed and 50% of Indian agriculture is likely to be rain-dependent even after having developed all water resources. Improving productivity in rainfed agro-ecologies through participatory integrated watershed management needs immediate scaling up.

5. A comprehensive diversification in terms of varieties, crops, farming systems, inputs, agricultural practices and marketing strategies is necessary to meet emerging challenges of WTO and other conventions or protocols.

6. Soil organic matter (SOM) is the mainstay of soil quality. While balanced fertilization may meet crop productivity and maintain SOM, it is an urgent imperative to improve the sequestration of carbon in all the soils by all available means including recycling of crop residues, green-manuring, composting, reduced tillage etc. We must realize that the grains belong to humans but the residues belong to the soil. So carbon sequestration should be an urgent priority, irrespective of its effect on climate change. Enhanced use of bio-fertilizers, soil microbes, bio-pesticides and bio-control of weeds may be given high priority.

7. Increasing urbanization and industrialization will generate large quantities of solid wastes and effluents beyond the capacity of natural systems to assimilate. This is posing severe health hazards due to load of heavy metals, detergent, pharmaceutical compounds and pathogens. Some of the water aquifers are likely to be contaminated with nitrates, fluorides, agro-chemical residues, selenium and arsenic triggered by geogenic (natural) and anthropogenic processes. While the search for cost-effective chemical and bioremediation options are on, refinement of agronomic options is called upon. River water quality monitoring showed that more than 90% of the contamination was due to point-source of urban and industrial effluents. Pre-treatment of effluents to meet the criteria for discharge into rivers and canals is necessary. Adoption of polluter must pay principle needs to be strictly adopted.

8. Productivity of wastelands may be restored with inputs of social capital for removing poverty by enhancing self-employment, income generation and livelihood opportunities for small/marginal farmers and landless communities.

9. Enabling reforms, regulations, contracting and leasing systems of land, water and machinery require legislative initiatives.

10. The shrinking capacity of soils to absorb any more abuse must be impressed on the public mind through appropriate changes in educational curriculum, through the mass media and it is time for individual countries to act on the World Soil Charter of FAO and press for UN Soils Convention to accord the same high priority to soil preservation as is being currently given to climate change, biodiversity etc.