Ananya Dutta

KOLKATA: For farmers living on the estuarine islands of the Sunderbans, high soil salinity has been a perennial problem that took critical proportions after cyclone Aila struck in May. But the State’s Agriculture department has not heeded expert advice to promote saline-resistant varieties of paddy in the region.

“The ingression of saline water into the croplands of the Sunderbans after Alia resulted in the soil salinity shooting up to 40 deciseimens in certain parts, more than five times the salinity an ordinary paddy plant can tolerate,” said Dr. B K. Bandyopadhyay, had of the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute’s regional research station at Canning in the State’s South 24 Parganas district.

The situation was made worse by the late rains and the long time it took for the waters to recede, he said.

According to Dr. Bandyopadhyay, there are more than a dozen varieties of saline-resistant paddy that have been developed of which CSR-4 and Canning-7 can withstand salinity of up to 9 deciseimens and are recommended for the region.

Three months after Aila struck when the saplings were trans-located, “salinity had not declined sufficiently for normal varieties to survive.”