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Assam facing 'drought-like' situation

The traditionally flood-prone northeastern state has been experiencing unusually high temperatures and little or no rainfall this year.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2006 13:56 IST

The Assam government has declared the traditionally flood-prone northeastern state as facing a "drought-like" situation with the region experiencing unusually high temperatures and little or no rainfall this year.

"A formal notification was issued by the revenue department, listing 22 of the 27 districts in the state as hit by a drought-like situation," Himanta

Biswa Sarma, Assam government spokesman and health minister, told journalists.

The government notification said the state had received 787.5 mm of rain between June 1 and Aug 23 this year against the expected average rainfall of 1,172.2 mm - a shortfall of about 33 percent.

"In some districts the rainfall was deficit by about 70 percent. This is the time when sufficient rainfall is required for a good paddy harvest, the major crop in the state," the government notification said.

According to estimates, nearly 500,000 farmers were hit by the lack of monsoon rains that severely hit agriculture - more than 75 percent of Assam's 26 million people are dependent on agriculture.

A team of experts and officials from New Delhi is being rushed to Assam in an effort to assess the situation and work out remedial measures, including financial grants to tide over the crisis.

"The central team is arriving over the weekend. We have already released a sum of Rs.10.64 million for procuring diesel to operate the shallow tube wells for irrigating fields," the minister said.

The government has also earmarked a whopping Rs.500 million to help the farmers.

"The focus now is on encouraging cultivation of alternative crops," Sarma said.

At least eight people died of sunstroke during the last two weeks in the state where temperatures were around four degrees above normal for this time of the year.

Every year the monsoon causes the great Brahmaputra to flood in Assam. In 2004, at least 200 people died and millions were displaced.

"We complain when the rain-fed river washes our homes every year and at the same we also get annoyed when there are no rains as it affects agriculture. This is the fate of people like us who live amidst the river," said Tapan Deka, a village elder.

First Published: Aug 26, 2006 11:58 IST