Agri Business

Scorched earth: Drought rages after monsoons fail

Vishwanath Kulkarni/T V Jayan Bengaluru/ New Delhi | Updated on March 28, 2019 Published on March 28, 2019

This ongoing drought will pose challenges in water availability this summer. Representative image.   -  The Hindu

Rural livelihoods affected as water stress hits production of pulses, oilseeds and cereals

From Gujarat and Maharashtra, through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the dismal South-West and North-East monsoons of 2018 have triggered yet another drought across the country. The water crisis, coupled with rising summer temperatures, is hurting rural livelihoods and triggering migration from the affected States.

While the South-West monsoon witnessed a deficit of 11 per cent, the shortfall in the North-East monsoon was 31 per cent. The water stress has already impacted production of both kharif and rabi foodgrains and crops such as cotton, pulses and oilseeds.

However, the impact of such a decline has not had a major impact on food prices, mainly on account of higher availability.

While production of pulses was impacted in Karnataka and Maharashtra, the output of oilseeds — mainly groundnut — has seen a decline in Gujarat.

Cotton production has been hit across major the producing States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana.

Also the output of coarse cereals, including maize and jowar, has been impacted in these States.

“Around 40 per cent of the area in the country is reeling under drought conditions, of which 16-17 per cent is under severe conditions,” said Vimal Mishra, Head of the Water and Climate Lab at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

Many districts in Maharashtra, Karnataka, the northern parts of Tamil Nadu and the southern parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, parts of Gujarat, Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh are in the severe drought category.

“Maharashtra is the worst hit as parts of the State suffered drought continuously for 3-4 years,” said Mishra, whose team at IIT Gandhinagar has been regularly monitoring drought conditions on a weekly basis.

The monsoon played truant in most of Gujarat, but the Kutch region, due to its arid climatic conditions, had to bear the brunt of the scarcity. The average rainfall deficit for the district was about 74 per cent and in some districts worse as high as 97 per cent.

 

 

Dry run in Kerala, Karnataka

Interestingly, parts of Kerala and Coastal Karnataka/Kodagu, which witnessed heavy rain and flooding during the South-West monsoon last year, now face water stress with rivers and streams almost running dry. There are indications of water rationing in these regions for both domestic and industrial purposes. In fact, a heat wave alert was valid for Kerala in early March, the second time after 2016 that mercury levels rose beyond the threshold level.

The Centre has given drought relief to six States, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat during the 2018 kharif season. According to an Agriculture Ministry official, Karnataka is the only State so far to apply for drought relief for the 2019 rabi season, which is still being evaluated.

Drought relief

In January, the Centre released ₹6,680 crore as drought relief to four States Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

Maharashtra has got the lion’s share of the total package, with an allocation of ₹4,700 crore, while Karnataka’s share was ₹950 crore. Andhra Pradesh got ₹ 900 crore and Gujarat ₹130 crore.

With inputs from Rutam Vora in Ahmedabad and Vinson Kurian in Thiruvananthapuram

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Published on March 28, 2019
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