Nor­mal Rains Likely: Agri Sec­re­tary

The Economic Times - - Front Page -

Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Shob­hana K Pat­tanayak has said the gov­ern­ment ex­pects a good mon­soon this year as the El Nino phe­nom­e­non is re­treat­ing,

That is be­cause out­put has dropped and the cost of in­puts is up due to greater spend­ing on pes­ti­cides, wa­ter etc. Where pro­duc­tion is nor­mal, prices haven’t risen, adding to ru­ral dis­tress and forc­ing thou­sands of vil­lagers to mi­grate to ur­ban ar­eas for jobs. The sce­nario is no bet­ter for homes and com­pa­nies. Peo­ple are pay­ing thou­sands of ru­pees to buy wa­ter or are trekking long dis­tances in the heat as taps have run dry in places like Latur in Ma­ha­rash­tra. The dry, cracked earth speaks for it­self. Latur is wait­ing for the ‘wa­ter train’—10 wagons of wa­ter be­ing fer­ried by the In­dian Rail­ways from Mi­raj.

Dal millers like Nitin Kalantry are spend­ing .₹ 10,000 a day for wa­ter. A tanker, or 6,000 litres of wa­ter, costs .₹ 1,200, up from .₹ 350 in Novem­ber, in parts of Ma­ha­rash­tra. San­tosh Mu­lay of Ud­gir in Ma­ha­rash­tra said he spends .₹ 2,500 a month to buy wa­ter for drink­ing and other do­mes­tic uses for his fam­ily of four.

Com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity that de­pends on wa­ter is grind­ing to a halt. Prithvi­raj Gore, a build­ing con­trac­tor in Latur, has stopped work since the last four months be­cause there’s no wa­ter.

Across the state bor­der in Has­san dis­trict of Kar­nataka, for­mer avi­a­tion en­tre­pre­neur GR Gopinath said the peren­nial stream near his farm has dried up while 30 borewells drilled to more than 600 feet pro­duce just a trickle. Wa­ter in the coun­try’s ma­jor dams is well short of the 10-year av­er­age, which doesn’t bode well for the plant­ing of crops and elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion, es­pe­cially in the south­ern, cen­tral and western states.

“The big­gest chal­lenge a state like Ma­ha­rash­tra will face is in pro­vid­ing ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter to wa­ter-in­ten­sive crops like sug­ar­cane, grapes and ba­nana,” said GS Jha, chair­man, Cen­tral Wa­ter Com­mis­sion. “Drink­ing wa­ter can be pro­vided by tankers and cat­tle fod­der from other states.”

Ateam of cen­tral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials has toured the parched re­gions of Ma­ha­rash­tra to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion. Its re­port is ex­pected shortly. The CWC chair­man said the most de­fi­cient river basin is the Kr­ishna, which caters to Kar­nataka, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Andhra Pradesh, where wa­ter lev­els are 63% be­low the10-year av­er­age. Re­serves in the Tapi river basin orig­i­nat­ing in Mad­hya Pradesh and flow­ing to Ma­ha­rash­tra and Gu­jarat are 42% be­low the av­er­age while those in the Mahi and Go­davari basins are 40% and 35% be­low nor­mal, re­spec­tively. Na­gar­juna Sa­gar dam has not be­come full per­haps for the first time in the last 20-25 years, said Sa­hadeva Reddy, prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist of Acharya NG Ranga Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity, Hy­der­abad.

“In Kurnool dis­trict (Andhra Pradesh), the rains are de­fi­cient by 30% and over one lakh hectares of rice cul­ti­va­tion have been af­fected,” he said. Prakasham, Kr­ishna and Gun­tur dis­tricts too have been hit by drought.

Most of these dis­tricts are in the grip of a drink­ing wa­ter crisis too as the ground wa­ter level has sunk ever lower be­cause of suc­ces­sive droughts. As a tem­po­rary mea­sure, the Andhra Pradesh gov­ern­ment has de­cided to re­lease two thou­sand mil­lion cu­bic feet (tmc) of wa­ter from Sri­sailam dam, Reddy said.

Pro­longed dry weather with­out sum­mer rain is threat­en­ing to hit the pep­per and car­damom crop in Ker­ala. Black pep­per out­put, which is al­ready down by 25% to 40,000 tonnes from the tar­geted pro­duc­tion, is ex­pected to fall fur­ther next year.

Parts of Tamil Nadu had the op­posi- te prob­lem — bear­ing the brunt of sur­plus rain in Novem­ber-De­cem­ber. The un­timely rains and the dry weather that fol­lowed have played havoc with crops like rice and cot­ton. “In TN, ex­cess rains and drought may drag the cot­ton out­put down by 40% from 5-6 lakh bales last year,” said M Ra­maswamy, chief ex­ec­u­tive at In­dian Cot­ton Fed­er­a­tion.

In north In­dia, there isn’t much wa­ter scarcity but the heat­wave is a con­cern. But big farm pro­duc­ers in Pun­jab and Haryana are not too wor­ried though.

“There is enough wa­ter in Pun­jab dams and be­ing an elec­tion year the gov­ern­ment will en­sure avail­abil­ity of wa­ter. Even the high tem­per­a­ture will not make a dent in plant­ing oper­a­tions as re­quire­ment of wa­ter in MayJune will be neg­li­gi­ble,” said Ajay Vir Jakhar, chair­man of New Delhi-based farm­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion Bharat Kr­ishak Sa­maj. Farm­ers in Pun­jab and Haryana will start nurs­ery prepa­ra­tion of paddy in May-end and trans­plant­ing to fields will be­gin by mid-June. Start­ing from the first week of May, plant­ing of cot­ton will also be­gin across Pun­jab, Haryana and Ra­jasthan.

In UP, farm­ers said they will start plant­ing sug­ar­cane and paddy by June. “Wa­ter is not a chal­lenge as we get wa­ter at a depth of 200-300 feet, but yes cost of pro­duc­tion will in­crease if rains are not on time and the heat­wave is strong,” said Ramku­mar Tyagi, a farmer from Man­dola vil­lage in Ghazi­abad dis­trict. Com­mod­ity prices are likely to stay high. Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data, the re­tail price of tur dal in Mum­bai in March this year was 82.5% more than a year ear­lier. Even if the mon­soon is nor­mal, prices of pulses are un­likely to de­cline. The best-case sce­nario will be prices re­main­ing un­changed. In­comes have suf­fered due to lower yields and cer­tain com­modi­ties be­com­ing cheaper. The av­er­age whole­sale onion price has re­mained at Rs 7 per kg for the last three months while pomegranate prices are much lower than last year.

The most de­fi­cient river basin is the Kr­ishna, which caters to Kar­nataka, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Andhra Pradesh

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.