Dry patch forecast after current spell, tough times for farmers

By Times Of India on 20 Aug 2017
NAGPUR: After a long wait, it finally rained heavily on Friday evening, in line with the meteorological department's prediction of showers in Vidarbha from Friday to Sunday. However, the forecast is for another lull after that till August 25, with a lot of rain expected only in September, said the met office on Friday.

The going has been tough for farmers, who are desperately awaiting rains. Water level in major dams of the region is in the range 23% to 33%. Gosikhurd dam, a national project, too is left with 50% of reserve. This means, for majority of dams, supplying drinking water is the first priority and irrigation has taken a back-seat.

Only a slender hope remains for paddy-growing areas of East Vidarbha. Already, plantation of paddy shoots has not taken place in 50% of the area under the crop. Officials in state's agriculture department say it may be too late for these paddy growers. Planting done another 3-4 days later may not be of much use. There has to be enough rains for the fields to be waterlogged for the shoots to be planted.

The IMD has predicted 99% rainfall for Central India, which extends from parts of Gujarat to Jharkhand. Although for Vidarbha, August is expected to be more or less dry, with much rains expected in September. That too depends on cloud formations over Bay of Bengal.

Rainfall in Vidarbha till Friday was short by 32%, which does not make the official case for a drought. Rain deficit has to be at least 60% for a drought.

Sources in the agriculture department say it all depends on how much it rains during these rounds of showers. It has to be at least 100mm. Even if it rains in September, it would be beneficial only for cotton, tur and soyabean. These are crops taken in parts of Vidarbha other than the east. In paddy growing parts, there is not much hope in the current scenario, say sources.

Paddy is the only crop taken in districts of Bhandara, Gondia, Gadchiroli and parts of Nagpur during the kharif season. This means the farmers who have not planted shoots have no other source of income for the season.

"The overall rainfall deficit in Central India so far is 9%. However, the Central India sub-division of Regional Metrological Centre (RMC) extends from parts of Gujarat till Jharkhand. The rainfall in entire stretch is considered for the purpose of predictions. The shortfall is higher in Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh at 23% and 33% respectively. This is not categorized as worst-case scenario. For that, the shortfall has to be up to 60% after which it is termed as high deficit," said AD Thatte, director of RMC here.

Data collected by Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) shows that some of the dams have nil reserves. In East Vidarbha, nearly 10 of the big projects have less than 30% water reserves. If the level goes beyond 30%, water cannot be spared for irrigation. In West Vidarbha, five of the nine major projects have water below 30% level.