Deficient rainfall in Bihar, paddy farmers fear drought, crop loss

18th July, 2022.      //   Climate Change  // 

Bihar recorded 194.6 millimetres of rainfall from June 1 to July 15. Photo: iStock

Paddy farmers in Bihar fear a drought and loss of their crops after the state recorded a large deficit in rainfall in the crucial first half of July.  Some 80-85 per cent of paddy farmers in Bihar have prepared seedlings (known locally as dhan bichra), according to Bihar’s agriculture secretary N Sarvana Kumar. Most farmers have prepared paddy seedlings on their small patches farmland.

But the transplantation of paddy seedlings has been done in only 0.67 million hectares (mha) of the total target of 3.52 mha. “If rainfall had been normal, nearly 40 per cent of paddy seedlings should have been transplanted so far,” an official told this reporter.

The transplantation of paddy seedlings is as low as five per cent in 15 districts and 10 per cent in 17 districts, according to the department. The transplantation of paddy seedlings was completed on 1.36 mha of 3.3 mha till July 16. In 2020, it was done on 1.76 mha of 3.3 mha.

Sanjay Kumar, an official at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) Centre, Patna, said July 15, 2022, that Bihar recorded 194.6 millimetres (mm) of rainfall from June 1 to July 15.

This was 42 per cent less than the normal 335.6 mm of rainfall. The state has received only 22.4 mm rainfall from July 1-15, which is 87 per cent less than the normal 172.4 mm.

Most of Bihar’s 38 districts are facing rainfall deficit, according to IMD’s data. The deficit in Araria, Purnea, Madhepura, Bhagalpur, Buxar and Supaul is nearly 97 per cent to 95 per cent. The deficit in other districts is 90 to above 60 per cent, except Kaimur, where deficient rainfall is 32 per cent, the lowest in the state. Hundreds of thousands of farmers across Bihar are facing a difficult situation due to the rainfall deficit.

Praying for rain

Pramod Singh and Lakhan Prasad, both marginal farmers of Karpi block in Arwal district, fear a drought as there has virtually been no rain in the last 15 days in July.

“Our farmland and paddy seedlings are ready for transplantation. But we are yet to start transplantation due to lack of water and rainfall deficit,” Singh, a resident of Katesar village, said.

“We farmers are waiting for rain even during the month of Sawan (Shravana) to start the much-awaited paddy seedlings transplantation. If the long dry spell continues for one more week, a drought is certain,” Prasad, a resident of Kinjar village, said.

Even big and well-off landowners, who managed to complete paddy transplantation by using diesel pump sets and electric-run motors, are worried about the rainfall situation.

“We have used a diesel pump set to avail water and complete paddy seedlings transplantation. But we are not sure how long they will survive without rain,” Shivnath Pandey, a farmer of Kutumba block in Aurangabad district, said.

It is not easy to pull out ground water daily as water evaporates from farmland due to the hot and humid climate, Pandey added.

“There is no water in the canal because the water resources department has failed to discharge water for irrigation purposes despite no rainfall,” Dhananjay Kumar, a farmer of Bala Bigha under Haspura block in Aurangabad, said.

Aurangabad has recorded a deficit of 85 per cent. So far, nearly one per cent of paddy seedling transplantation has been completed in the district.

Aurangabad district agriculture officer Ranveer Kr Singh said he had appealed to all farmers to save their paddy seedlings and keep them alive for transplantation as rainfall was expected next week.

Khagaria district agriculture officer Shailesh Kumar said paddy seedlings transplantation was badly hit by poor monsoon. Dinkar Prasad, Katihar district agriculture officer, said nearly 32 per cent of paddy seedlings had been transplanted so far. The transplantation process was getting delayed due to deficient rainfall, he added. Nearly 25 per cent of paddy seedlings had been transplanted till date in Supaul, Kirshi Vigyan Kendra’s scientist Manoj Kumar, said.

In several districts including Jamui, Nawada and Banka, farmers have been struggling to keep their paddy seedlings green as they turn yellow due to lack of water.

“My farmland is dry. Even the nursery of paddy seedlings has developed cracks because of no rain since the last two weeks. Am doing everything to save them. But this is a challenge as temperatures are hovering at 35-37°C,” Musafir Mahto, a marginal farmer of Sinhauli village in Nawada, said.

Mahto said hardly one per cent of paddy seedlings had been transplanted in his area.

N Sarvana Kumar said this past week that so far, only 15-20 per cent of the transplantation of paddy seedlings had been completed. The agriculture department has targeted 3.52 million hectares for paddy cultivation this year.

The state’s agriculture minister Amrendra Pratap Singh said the government was aware of the situation and asked district officers to provide help to farmers by ensuring supply of power and other measures.

Bihar’s farmers are heavily dependent on monsoon rain for kharif crops, mainly paddy, a water-intensive crop.

In the last 13 years, monsoon rainfall has been above normal five times in June. In 2021, Bihar received 111 per cent surplus rainfall, 82 per cent in 2020, 37 per cent in 2011, 5 per cent in 2013 and 6 per cent in 2022.

Heavy rainfall in the state is normal during July and August. But surplus rainfall in June resulted in floods in the low-lying areas.

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