Karnataka braces for drought as dry spell continues

Karnataka has been reeling under a severe agrarian distress because of back-to-back droughts


The Karnataka government, which has already alerted farmers, is preparing for the worst. 
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
The Karnataka government, which has already alerted farmers, is preparing for the worst. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: If it does not rain enough in the next four days, Karnataka could be bracing for another severe drought, warned the state’s law and parliamentary affairs minister T. B. Jayachandra.

“For the last nearly 20 days, there has been a dry spell. No rains at all,” he said over phone, highlighting that across the state, except in the basins of the Cauvery and Krishna rivers, the command areas (the areas surrounding a big dam that get water from it) have received 40-50% deficient rainfall versus the normal level at this time of the year.

The shortage, if it continues, would make it impossible for the state to supply water beyond what is necessary for drinking, which, in turn, could hurt irrigation water supply and affect crops and farmers adversely.

The government, which has already alerted farmers, is preparing for the worst.

For instance, it has already put restrictions on water guzzling crops such as sugarcane and paddy.

“We want to try and regulate the use of water for agriculture. We are asking not to sow water-intensive crops,” Jayachandra had said in a media briefing after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

This is the second time in a week the state government has voiced concerns of another drought year in the making.

Last week, the government said it may not be able to give neighbouring state Tamil Nadu its legal share of water from the Cauvery basin due to the deficient rainfall.

Like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka has been reeling under a severe agrarian distress owing to back-to-back droughts.

Karnataka was the first state to declare drought last year.

The 2015 drought came on the back of unseasonal rains damaging the winter harvest last year, and a monsoon deficit that led to a dip in kharif output in 2014.

Agriculture production in the state is likely to come down to 11 million tonnes this year from the last year’s figure of 12.6 million tonnes, as per the state’s latest budget.

Karnataka is also the only state to have declared widespread damage to both rabi crop this year and kharif crop last year, seeking a total Central assistance of Rs.2,263 crore.

So, will the state go for an official declaration of the drought soon?

A cabinet sub-committee has formed, said Jayachandra, to look into the details of the situation.

The state government is likely to wait until next month for any potential declaration of drought as announcements like these are usually done after the end of the crop year.

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