Other States

Shadow of drought looms over Gujarat as monsoon plays truant

An Indian woman carriea an empty water pot as she crosses the dry bed of a pond at Mehmadpur village, some 20 kms from Ahmedabad on July 8, 2014. FILE PHOTO:AFP  

A month-long dry spell in Gujarat has farmers and the government worried as the State is now possibly staring at a drought with the monsoon deficit widening. The State received heavy rain in June and July, leading to floods in Saurashtra and North Gujarat, which killed over 100 people and thousands of animals.

“There was not a single drop of rain in the whole of August so it looks like we already have a semi-drought in the State notwithstanding the rain in June-July,” a senior official says. The Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday discussed the problem, he adds.

In the Saurashtra region, comprising seven districts, the situation is worsening with a continued rain deficit as the mainstay crops of groundnut and cotton are in a precarious position.

“To save the standing crops, we urgently need fresh showers; or else, the crops will wilt,” says Ramjibhai Patel, a farmer from Rajkot district, who has grown groundnut and cotton on his 20-acre rain-fed farm.

“It rained heavily in June. Since then, there has not been major spells of rain. Groundwater has also not increased. So we cannot even irrigate our fields from our bore wells.”

Those farmers who have access to the Narmada canal in Rajkot, Surendranagar, Mehsana, Patan, Ahmedabad and Banaskantha districts have already started drawing water from it, but they form a miniscule number.

By July-end, over 90 per cent of the sowing was completed in Gujarat. “If it does not rain in the next two weeks, the government will declare semi-drought in the affected areas,” Agriculture Minister Babubhai Bokhiria told The Hindu.

“We are prepared to tackle the situation if the monsoon fails. We will start drought-relief works in the affected areas, and fodder for animals will be made available by the State agencies,” Mr. Bokhiria said.

“The average rainfall in the State may have been over 50 per cent by now, but it looks like a bad monsoon for agriculture,” Y.K. Alagh, agriculture economist and former Union Minister, says.

Officials say providing drinking water will be a daunting task, as the Narmada canal and pipeline network is the main source of drinking water in the parched areas of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat districts.

“We may have to start supplying water through tankers in those villages which are not connected by pipelines. As of now, 150 villages in Kutch are also being supplied water through tankers,” Water Resources Minister Vijay Rupani says.

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Printable version | May 3, 2021 10:28:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/shadow-of-drought-looms-over-gujarat-as-monsoon-plays-truant/article7617112.ece

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