Palakkad paddy farmers bogged down by scanty rainfall

Palakkad paddy farmers bogged down by scanty rainfall

Palakkad: Dry spell has cast a cloud over paddy fields in Palakkad. Most of the rice fields here are now lying fallow as the planting of saplings is yet to be completed. Amid a shortage of water, saplings that have already been planted have attained maturity up to one month and may wilt without adequate rainfall. Deficient rainfall has affected the cultivation of several crops, including vegetables, corn, banana, yam and ginger.

The first crop from Palakkad fields is usually reaped after sowing paddy seeds in semi-arid soil, a practice called 'podi vitha'. But this is not the case this time owing to the shortage of water to irrigate the crops.

Farmers, with a hope of making it big this time, had even replanted the saplings. During the long wait for the rains to carry out re-transplantation, the saplings matured and started to wilt. The helpless farmers could do nothing but remove the matured saplings using tractors. Though it is possible to get a decent price for paddy through procurement, delayed rains have played spoilsport on all the hard work of the farmers.

This means the helpless farmers have to go back to the farms and do the sowing once again. This could result in a loss of up to 30% in production, says a farmer K A Venugopal who is also the president of Kannadi Panchayat.

On top of these issues, there were flaws in manuring the fields after the seeds were sown. Even though time has lapsed for fertilising the soil twice, farmers have just started to add manure.

Second crop to be delayed

The farmers have to wait for the mercy of the rains to see the dams are filled. Usually the water is released from the dams till mid-February to irrigate the second crop. If the present situation persists water has to be released till the middle of March to harvest the second yield.

Ground water level dips

The groundwater level in Palakkad district has come down by 3 m on an average owing to weak summer showers and monsoon.

Alathur block which has immense potential in water storage has shown receding groundwater level due to the indiscriminate filling of paddy fields, the decline of Gayathripuzha, drastic failure to strengthen waterbodies, says Haritha Keralam Mission coordinator Y Kalyanakrishnan.

Most of the canals in Alathur are clogged. Water scarcity aggravated due to unrestricted construction activities and pumping of water from Gayathripuzha. Quarries were set up along the banks of the river. Avenues for collecting and storing water are meagre as waterbodies were filled and converted into mango orchards.

Normally, the groundwater level rises to 4 m in Alathu during the rainy season. However, the water level has fallen by 4.5 m. The situation here, which has otherwise favourable conditions for water availability, is grim. The Central Groundwater Department and its counterparts in the state have recorded the average water level after monitoring 113 wells.

The water level in Chittoor block too, where water is exploited on a large scale, has dipped by an average of 1.5 m. This block, which utilises 100 per cent of groundwater, as well as Malampuzha, which makes use of 70 to 90 per cent of ground water, are inching towards the danger mark.

Chittoor, where groundwater forms the primary source of water, has luckily received continuous spell of summer showers after a gap of several years. The rain shadow regions of Vadakarappathy and Eruthembathy also received a fairly good amount of rainfall. During summer, the water level in Chittoor goes down up to 7 m. Due to its unregulated extraction of groundwater, Chittoor block has declared the region with the highest water exploitation in 2002.

Pattambi block, which utilises groundwater below 70 per cent, falls under the safe zone even though the groundwater is recharged predominantly from rainfall.