Crops in 102 of 314 blocks in Odisha affected by rain deficit
Odisha government on Monday told the state assembly that standing crops in at least 102 of the 314 blocks of Odisha have been affected by the rainfall deficit even as former chief minister Hemananda Biswal conducted a puja at his village to “propitiate the rain gods”.
Responding to a discussion on the rain deficit affecting crops in the state, Odisha revenue minister Sudam Marndi on Tuesday said the current situation was a matter of concern and the state government will take necessary steps. “Though the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had predicted normal monsoon rain in the country this year, it has not proved true for Odisha. What has worsened matters for us is huge deficiency of rains in August,” said Marndi.
In August alone the state saw 44% less than expected rain, rendering the fate of transplanted paddy uncertain in most of the areas. Between June 1 and September 6, Odisha saw 29% less rain with 25 of 30 districts in Odisha receiving deficit rainfall between 59% and 20% in the last three months. Due to deficient rainfall, agricultural activities have been possible only on 56.33 lakh hectares of farmland against a target of 61.96 lakh hectares.
The revenue minister said while 15 small and medium reservoirs in the state are almost dry, so far only the Mahanadi delta irrigation system and Subarnarekha irrigation system are holding up. Hirakud reservoir has now 62% of its capacity filled up compared to 83% last year while Rengali reservoir has 79% filled up compared to 103% last year. “Rains in September will be crucial for Odisha,” he said.
In western Odisha district of Jharsuguda, former chief minister and tribal leader Hemananda Biswal on Sunday conducted a yagna at his village of Thakurpara in Kirimira block. Biswal said August is the crucial month for farmers in Odisha, and whenever monsoon has failed in August there has been a drought.
“It has been our custom to do a puja invoking Lord Indra for adequate rain. It is an attempt to propitiate the rain Ggods,” said Biswal. “I hope the state government announces drought in the state.” In Kalahandi district, hundreds of farmers on Monday morning blocked the Khariar-Bhawanipatna road demanding a declaration of drought by government.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have visited the districts hit by lack of rains and alleged that the state government took no measures to tackle the drought situation. A party delegation of the BJP led by senior leader Manmohan Samal visited Bolangir and Nuapada districts and discussed the ground situation with farmers who have lost their crops to erratic rainfall. “We demand that the government declare drought and pay compensation to farmers from the calamity relief fund which I had set up during my tenure as the revenue minister in 2007-08,” said Samal. The Congress delegation led by chief of Congress Kisan Cell Amiya Patnaik toured Boudh, Sonepur, Bolangir and Nuapada districts, and alleged that the drought is man-made and the state government is responsible for it.
Meanwhile, agriculture minister Arun Sahoo asked his department officials to keep their mobile phones switched on all the time for the necessary dissemination of crucial information for execution on an immediate basis. He said officials of the block and district level have been asked to provide data of minor irrigation facilities, rainfall and drought situation in their regions regularly. Similarly, officials have been instructed to hold block and district level review meetings on all Saturdays at 5pm.
Officials, however, said there is a glimmer of hope for farmers as India Meteorological Department predicted that a low-pressure area has formed over northwest and adjoining west-central Bay of Bengal off south Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh coasts.
The low-pressure system has developed under the influence of a cyclonic circulation and is likely to move west-northwest wards during the next two or three days. The system is likely to trigger heavy to very heavy rainfall in several parts of Odisha in the next 48 hours.