Tamil Nadu

3 deficit years and an impending drought

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Overall shortfall in rain was about 20 to 23 per cent of the annual average

Not always one comes across the sight of a tree as sturdy as coconut or palmyra standing dried or shrunken. Three consecutive rain-deficit years, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the delayed south west monsoon this year has created a drought-like situation in parts of the State, presenting visuals of such dried-up trees. 

While rainfall in parts of Kerala and Karnataka in the last couple of days has brought some relief to neighbouring regions of Tamil Nadu with water levels improving in reservoirs, what the State appears to be suffering from is the cumulative effect of deficit from previous years.

11 districts short in rainfall

According to the latest seasonal rain map (June 1 –July 16) released by the Agricultural Meteorology Division, Ministry of Earth Sciences, as many as 11 districts in Tamil Nadu have received deficit rainfall.

Senior officials in the Revenue Department, responsible for calamity relief, confirmed that the State faced an overall rain deficit of 20 per cent and 23 per cent from the annual average in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

This year, the officials are hoping that the north east monsoon will make up for the vagaries of the present spell of south west monsoon.

A map showing the seasonal rainfall percentage departure from normal:

Agricultural productivity suffers

The south west monsoon usually facilitates the Cauvery delta farmers in eight districts to grow paddy. Although districts such as Erode, Salem, Dharmapuri and Thanjavur are shown to have received rainfall till now, farmers say agricultural productivity has suffered for the want of timely arrival of rainfall.

In a paper recently published in the journal,  Economic and Political Weekly, author S. Rajendran, Department of Economics, Periyar University, Salem, has noted that due to failure of the south west and north east monsoons in 2013, drought-like conditions persist in the State this year.

The paper highlights how 7,000 palmyra trees, 30-year-old, have withered in Konganapuram and Edapaddy blocks in Salem district in the last one year. “These trees are sturdy, deep-rooted and drought-resistant and their withering is a sign that must be taken seriously by the State authorities,” he told  The Hindu.

While the Cauvery delta region has benefitted from the latest spell of rain, C.M. Thulasi Mani, Erode district secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, said the rain deficit affected crops such as coconut, groundnut, tapioca and sugarcane in the western agricultural belt of the State. “The crops that were sown last month in these regions have dried up already. In many areas of Erode, Tiruppur, Dharmapuri, Salem and Krishnagiri, groundwater levels have fallen below 500 feet,” he said.  

Senior officials in the Revenue Department said that in anticipation of the water crisis, the State has allocated Rs. 189 crore for drinking water supply across the State, focusing on water-starved districts of Chennai, Madurai, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar and Tuticorin.

Sustainable solutions

However, Mr. Rajendran said, “What we need are sustainable solutions that resolve the issues in the long term. Unless appropriate and adequate social safety measures are put in place to tide over the drought-like situation, distress may be aggravated even in irrigated zones.”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 6:47:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/3-deficit-years-and-an-impending-drought/article6230312.ece

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