Drought looms large over Orissa, again

For Haradhan Sahu, 71, a farmer from Gothuguda village in Orissa’s Bargarh district, the future appears bleak.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2011 00:50 IST
Priya Ranjan Sahu
Priya Ranjan Sahu
Hindustan Times

For Haradhan Sahu, 71, a farmer from Gothuguda village in Orissa’s Bargarh district, the future appears bleak.

Sahu cultivates 12 acres of land, but this season he has not yet started transplanting paddy due to scanty rainfall. He usually does transplanting in July.

“I have never encountered such severe drought,” he said. “This year’s drought will ruin me.”

Transplantation is yet to happen on more than 70% land in this drought-prone block.

Insufficient rainfall has affected agricultural activities in 17 of the state’s 30 districts and the spectre of drought looms over Orissa for the second successive year.

Last year, at least 11 districts experienced drought due to scanty rainfall. Many farmers had to abandon transplanted fields as paddy saplings wilted due to lack of rainfall.

At least 34 blocks in 16 districts have received less than 50% rainfall this year, according to the agriculture department.

Balangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Deogarh, Nuapada and Malkangiri districts have experienced 40% less than normal rainfall, officials said.

State revenue minister SN Patro said the situation could get worse if there was no rainfall in the coming week.

“The government is keeping a close watch on the situation. We have asked the district collectors to send field reports by the end of August,” Patro said.

Targeted food grain production for both kharif and rabi crops in Orissa is 9.4 million tonnes for 2011-12, 8% more than the 8.97 million tonnes produced in 2010-11. Of this, rice is expected to be 7.3 million tonnes. But if the drought continues, the target will be difficult to meet.

The minister recently told the state assembly the Biju Janata Dal government will take steps to address the problems of farmers. “We have sent a preliminary report to the Union agriculture ministry requesting a field visit by a central expert team,” Patro said.

The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, however, demanded the districts be declared drought affected immediately, without waiting for the field report, as the situation was getting out of control.

First Published: Aug 21, 2011 23:30 IST