Pre-monsoon dry spell in Bihar sets off Kharif worries

A depleting groundwater table, coupled with the absence of pre-monsoon showers this year, has set alarm bells ringing for Bihar ahead of kharif production.

The delay in monsoon and aberrations in normal rains are likely to impact the cultivation of paddy in Bihar, one of the leading rice producing states in the country.

As the Indian meteorological department (IMD) has foreseen a below normal monsoon this year across the country, a wary Bihar government is now contemplating resumption of diesel subsidy to farmers for paddy seedling. “The government may dole out cash subsidy on diesel purchase by farmers for paddy seedling if rains continue to play truant any further,” said agriculture minister Prem Kumar.

An agriculture expert of the department, not willing to be named, said that the state had been receiving annual rainfall about 20-28% below normal, which is around 1000 mm. “Last year, it rained 771 mm that led to declaration of drought in about 280 out of 534 blocks in 25 districts the state. Subsequently, rice production had dipped to 60.42 lakh tonnes. This year’s situation is also not auguring well for farmers to go for massive transplantation of paddy,” he said.

At a recent meeting held by chief minister Nitish Kumar over the scarcity of potable water, it came to light that the groundwater table had declined by 10-12 feet in most of the paddy growing districts in the state. This was seen as an alarming development, as usage of groundwater for paddy cultivation is a popular practice across paddy growing regions in the state. “In a few areas of Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad, groundwater table has gone down by 20 feet this summer and has affected paddy seedling to a large extent,” said the agriculture expert.

Patna-based weather experts of IMD, however, predicted normal monsoon, but the state agencies are apprehensive of less than average rains again. The minister said that the diesel subsidy, which was discontinued after the rabi season, would start in a day or two, as the proposal has been sent to the state cabinet for approval.

Farmers of paddy growing districts, which include four in Bhojpur region, have kept their fingers crossed even after monsoon hit the state on June 21, 11 days behind the normal schedule.

“Irrigation networks, consisting of dams, barrages and canals in paddy producing areas hardly get sufficient water if adjoining states like Madhya Pradesh do not receive surplus monsoon rain,” said Yogendra Rai, a farmer from Jehanabad.

First Published:
Jun 26, 2019 10:45 IST

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