Drought districts come alive with sound of rain

But the jubilation over lakes and rivers brimming over is tempered with extensive crop loss across the State

Published - October 13, 2017 12:30 am IST - Bengaluru

Lakes arid for years have filled up, dry riverbeds are seeing a surge of water, and the State’s rural landscape has come alive in the recent rain. But, this optimism is tempered by the reality of crop loss.

While officials said crop loss was inevitable considering the intensity and unseasonal characteristics of the rainfall, the delay in rain has seen a shortfall in sowing. For instance, by the end of September, the State had seen 13 lakh hectares less cultivation of kharif crop than the target set, and 5 lakh hectares lower than normal.

However, for those who did cultivate, the rain has wiped out significant crops. Critical crops such as ragi, maize, cotton, and groundnut have seen huge losses in yield as heavy rainfall has flattened cultivations.

In the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, cotton crop sown over 4 lakh acres has been the worst hit. Farmers are just unable to harvest it. “I have 4.5 acres of land and cultivated only Bt cotton on it. The crop was so healthy that each plant had over 30 fully-grown bolls. Before they could open and fetch fluffy cotton, the rain destroyed them. All the cotton bolls in my field are rotten. In some fields in my village, the seeds have germinated destroying cotton around them,” says Jayappaswamy from Udumgal-Khanapur village in Raichur district. The crop loss puts in doubt his ability to repay the nearly ₹1.8-lakh loan taken from a local bank.

While the fate of chilli, pearl millet and sunflower — all of which are ready for harvest — is on similar lines, there is anxiety over the loss to the region’s biggest produce: red gram.

At present, in Kalaburagi, just around 100 acres have been destroyed after the overflow of Dotikola dam and Tumkunat lake in Chincholi taluk. However, if the rain continues, as is expected over the coming days, the damage could be worse. Agriculture Department officials say around 25% of the crop, which is cultivated over 8 lakh acres, could be lost.

“The red gram in low-lying areas will in anyway be lost. If the rain continues, the crop in the other areas will also be destroyed as the over moisture will cause the crop to turn yellow and get destroyed,” Maruti Manpade, a Kalaburagi-based farmers’ leader associated with Karnataka Pranta Raitha Sangha, said.

In Belagavi, for instance, around 9,500 hectares of sugarcane, soya, cotton, groundnut and maize were damaged. The rain may even impact the rabi season, which is generally expected to yield bumper crops due to the improved reservoir and groundwater levels.

“Fields are required to be dry for cleaning and sowing. But, these rains have kept fields completely wet and triggered dense growth of weeds. No activity can be taken up in such wet lands,” said Chamarasa Malipatil, a Raichur-based farmer leader.

However, interspersed with the worry of the moment is the optimism for the future.

Lakes are brimming over and the reservoirs are in a good shape. Irrigation needs for the coming months, and drinking water for the harsh summer is all but guaranteed.

( With inputs from Kumar Buradikatti in Kalaburagi, Rishikesh Bahadur Desai in Belagavi, and Vishwa Kundapura in Kolar )

Blanket of green over the drylands of Karnataka

Hundreds of villagers from the arid Bagepalli region make their way up the narrow road that leads to Chitravati dam off National Highway 7. As the procession walks around the bund, their excitement heightens. The narrow dam bund reveals water stretching out far into the horizon. Twenty-foot-high telephone and electric poles on the banks of the reservoir have been submerged. Near the pumping house of the 15-year-old dam, a goat has been sacrificed, even while rituals of gratitude are performed.

“I haven’t seen the reservoir ever this full. It is a moment of celebration because we know we will get drinking water for at least two years,” said Manjunath from Bagepalli. Though his ragi fields have been destroyed by the unseasonal rain, he can’t hide his joy: “We are set now. By the time the water dries out, the Yettinahole river diversion project will be implemented in Chickballapur district.”

The unseasonal rain that has lashed the State has placed a blanket of green over the drylands of Karnataka. Unlike any other rain in recent history, this year’s monsoons have been particularly intense in drought-prone areas. After all, the deficit regions in Karnataka are coastal and Malnad; while the plains of Central and Northern Karnataka have seen excess rainfall.

Take Chickballapur district for instance, which had been declared drought-hit for six years now. This year, the past two months have seen 60% rain more than the “normal”.

In Kolar, which has witnessed 116% excess rain compared to the “normal”, Ramasagar lake and the critical Bethamangala reservoir have filled up after years. The Palar river is seeing significant flow too. In Chitradurga and Tumakuru, both drought-prone districts that have been stricken with drinking water crisis over the past four years, have seen rainfall in excess of 115% and 75% respectively. Even smaller rivers such as Suvarnamukhi and Vedavathi are in spate here.

In North Karnataka, the rains have reversed the touch-and-go water situation seen over the past four drought years.

( Mohit M. Rao, with inputs from Kumar Buradikatti in Kalaburagi, Rishikesh Bahadur Desai in Belagavi, and Vishwa Kundapura in Kolar )

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