Bengaluru: After months of deficient rainfall, the Karnataka government has declared 68 taluks in 22 districts of the state as drought-affected. The declaration of a second successive drought comes at a time when the state is staring at an acute shortage of drinking water and has issued advisories to farmers against the sowing of water-intensive crops such as paddy and sugarcane.
The state’s law and parliamentary affairs minister T.B. Jayachandra said the numbers could go up as the year proceeds. He said the regions that were declared drought affected had received at least 20% deficient rainfall, 50% less moisture, experienced at least four weeks of dry spell and a minimum of 33% crop loss.
The report on drought was placed before the cabinet on Wednesday. The state is yet to decide on crop loss compensation.
Karnataka has 177 taluks, or administrative units, and 30 districts.
The Janata Dal (secular) demanded a compensation of Rs.25,000-50,000 per acre—a demand chief minister Siddaramaiah said he would consider after consultations.
In August, the state recorded 126 mm of rainfall as against normal rainfall of 206 mm, almost 40% less, and classified as “deficit”, according to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center, Mint reported on 19 September.
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Though ‘normal’ rainfall was recorded until mid-July, the dry spell that continued later saw a sharp decline in the total area of cultivated land. The total area of cultivation in Karnataka has come down from 96,200 hectares (for major crops including paddy, sugarcane, ragi, maize and pulses) to 61,600 hectares, according to the state agriculture department.
Agriculture production in the state is likely to come down to 11 million tonnes this year from last year’s 12.6 million tonnes, as per the state’s latest budget.
Earlier this year, the state lost 70% of its winter harvest as its kharif output collapsed after a drought gripped 27 districts in 2015. Karnataka is also the only state to have declared widespread damage to both the rabi crop this year and the kharif crop last year. It has sought total central assistance of Rs.2,263 crore.
The announcement on Wednesday means there have been three years of below-normal monsoon in a state where the rural economy predominantly subsists on agriculture or allied jobs.
An estimated 1,300 farmers killed themselves in Karnataka last year because of rural distress, Mint reported on 6 August 2015.