Instead of floods, Assam witnesses less rainfall this monsoon
Floods are a common feature in Assam every monsoon with overflowing waters of Brahmaputra and its tributaries affecting millions across most parts of the northeastern state. However, the state is yet to witness any major flooding this monsoon and several districts of the state have recorded less than normal rainfall leading to concerns among farmers as well as tea growers.
“From June 1, when monsoon season officially started, till August 13, the Assam-Meghalaya region has witnessed 21% less rainfall this season than normal monsoon periods,” said Sumit Das, senior scientist at the regional meteorological office in Guwahati.
He said the rainfall deficiency in Assam and other parts of northeast was predicted by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and it was not abnormal as it happens due to monsoon variability.
The Assam-Meghalaya region has witnessed such variability in past years with deficit rainfall recorded in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018, normal rainfall in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019 and excess precipitation in 2020.
Between June 1 and August 13, Assam-Meghalaya region (both states are clubbed together for calculation of rainfall data) received 959.9 mm of rainfall against the normal of 1217 mm, recorded during that period.
“In northeast, maximum rainfall is witnessed during break-monsoon condition when the monsoon trough lies close to Himalayan foothills as witnessed between last week of June and the first week of July. There was good rainfall during that period but after that the amount of rainfall has decreased,” said Das.
Deficient rainfall is a cause of worry for farmers, especially in districts of Upper Assam, where paddy cultivation, which requires a lot of water, starts later than in the districts of Lower Assam.
“Water, especially from rainfall, is very important during transplantation of rice. In Lower Assam, we did transplanting in May-June when there was sufficient rainfall. So the impact of less rainfall after that period on rice cultivation hasn’t been much in our areas,” said Puspadhar Das, an award winning farmer from Baksa district.
“But there have been reports of areas in Upper Assam getting affected due to less rainfall this season. The only worry is about this deficient rainfall becoming a regular pattern. Then the long term effect is going to be disastrous for farmers,” he added.
According to the state government, some districts are experiencing around 20% less rainfall while the deficiency is around 30% in others. Two revenue circles in Golaghat district have been declared drought hit and large parts of Udalguri and Tinsukia districts are stated to be severely affected.
“We have sought reports from all districts on the situation and expect to get them by next week. We’ve also asked for details from weather agencies on the average annual rainfall in the past five years especially around the monsoon season. We will need to study those reports to arrive at a conclusion,” said Vinod Seshan, director, agriculture.
“The measures to be taken to help farmers will be decided after all details are received. As a first step to aid farmers cope with the issue, we have decided on cultivation of pulses in the next cropping season instead of paddy as it requires less water,” he added.
Deficient rainfall has also cast a spell of gloom on Assam’s tea industry, which was hoping to recover this year after suffering last year due to lockdown and other restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.
“Tea gardens across Assam will see a big impact due to the drought-like conditions witnessed from March to May, when the first plucking season of tea leaves takes place. It is unlike anything the industry, which is heavily dependent on rainfall, has witnessed in the past 30 years,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, adviser, North East Tea Association (NETA).
“Though there has been some rainfall since June, tea gardens are still experiencing less production due to the impact of deficient rainfall in the first few months of the plucking season. Last year, tea production in Assam came down by nearly 100 million kg due to Covid-19 and this year we could have around 80 million kg less production due to deficient rainfall,” he added.