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. With new research suggesting that emission of methane by Indian livestock is higher than previously estimated, scientists are furiously working at designing diets to help bovines and other ruminants eat better, stay more energetic and secrete lesser amounts of the offensive gas.

Last month, scientists at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad in western India published a pan-India livestock methane emission inventory, the first ever, which put the figure at 11.75 million metric tons per year, higher than 9 million metric tons estimated in 1994. This amount is likely to increase as higher incomes and consumption rates put more pressure on the country's dairy industry to become even more productive.


Moahmmed marzuk ali