Is Tamil Nadu heading towards drought?

Tamil Nadu has a 70% rain deficit between 1 October and 28 November this year, as per the India Metrological Department


A file photo of a drought-hit farm. Tamil Nadu had seen the worst drought in 1876. Photo: Reuters
A file photo of a drought-hit farm. Tamil Nadu had seen the worst drought in 1876. Photo: Reuters

Chennai: With the cumulative rainfall for October and November at 10 cm (till 30 November), Tamil Nadu is staring at the prospect of its worst drought since 1876.

As per Chennaiyil Oru Mazhaikkaalam, a weather blog, “… the cumulative rainfall of both October and November 1876 has seen the lowest rainfall accumulation so far at 12 cm.”

For the southern state, the northeast monsoon is considered the lifeline, accounting for nearly 50% of its annual rainfall, where the peak month is November.

Urging the Tamil Nadu government to take action, P.R. Pandian, president of the Coordination Committee of All Tamil Nadu Farmers Association said on Sunday, “Till now, 15 farmers have died either due to the shock of crop failure or have committed suicide.” Various farmers’ organisations have urged the state government to declare the state drought-hit.

Also Read: Karnataka to declare drought?

According to private weather forecaster Skymet, though sporadic rains are still expected over Tamil Nadu and Kerala, these showers will not be sufficient to reduce the deficiency.

Last year, Tamil Nadu received 53% higher rainfall than average during the northeast monsoon (October-December). In contrast, the state has a 70% deficit between 1 October and 28 November this year, as per the India Metrological Department.

“We are likely to face a Rs1,500 crore to Rs2,000 crore production loss in the Cauvery delta region alone. This will have a huge impact on the agricultural economy of the state,” said Arupathy Kalyanam, general secretary of the Federation of Farmers Associations of Cauvery Delta. He also urged the government to pay crop insurance premia of farmers.

The Cauvery delta zone includes Trichy, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts and more than 14 lakh hectares of farmland depend on Cauvery waters for irrigation.

With Karnataka refusing to release Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water, the minimal discharge of water from Mettur dam—the entry point in Tamil Nadu, from where it is released to farmers—has not helped farming. Failure of the northeast monsoon has only made matters worse.

While a 19% deficit in the southwest monsoon (June- September) hit the kuruvai crops, the northeast monsoon has turned into a huge blow for the samba crop. Kuruvai is an early season short-term crop and samba is a longer rice-growing season.

“The entire gamut of agriculture in Tamil Nadu is currently in bad shape and we are heading for a very serious crisis in foodgrain production,” said S. Rajendran, a professor who specializes in agricultural economics at the Gandhigram University in Dindigul.

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