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Spectre of drought looms large over parts of Maharashtra, rabi season under cloud

Spectre of drought looms large over parts of Maharashtra, rabi season under cloud

October 11, 2018


As Maharashtra reels under 23 per cent deficient rainfall this year, the spectre of drought seems to be looming large in parts of the state. The worst-hit areas are Nashik and Marathwada divisions, where the major reservoirs have not filled up to their capacity this monsoon.


Between June and September, the state has recorded 868.9 mm of rainfall, as against the 1131.3 mm of rain it was supposed to receive. While Konkan, Pune, Amravati and Nagpur divisions have reported almost normal rainfall, Aurangabad and Nashik divisions have received only 63.9 and 6.7 per cent of their normal rainfall, respectively.


While the monsoons had started on the right note, rains remained sporadic in the months of July, August and September, with large parts of the state receiving little or no rainfall in those months, and Maharashtra recording a rain deficit (-8 per cent). Both Aurangabad and Nashik divisions saw less rainfall, compared to other parts of the state, and are facing moisture stress. Till October 10 this year, sparse rainfall over Maharashtra had left the state 77 per cent rain-deficient.Though the withdrawal of the Southwest monsoon this year was delayed by nearly a month, once it commenced on September 29, its subsequent exit from most parts of the country was swift. The retreating monsoon has also affected the state as, say meteorologists, severe weakening of monsoon winds has minimised the chances of any moisture-laden interactions, which could have brought some respite.“The rainfall during monsoon withdrawal occurs when dry northerly winds interact with moist southerly winds. But this year, the northerlies interacted with equally dry winds blowing from the south, and this didn’t cause much rainfall over Maharashtra or other parts of the state in the post-monsoon period,” said an official from the India Meteorological Department, Pune.


Due to the sparse rainfall, major dams in the state are far from being completely full. The overall water level in the state’s dams is 63.99 per cent, as against the 74.80 per cent water level recorded last year. The dams in Nashik division have been filled till 64.81 per cent of their capacity, but those in Marathwada are only 26.45 per cent full. Last year, the water levels in Nashik and Marathwada were, at 82.26 and 65.98 per cent respectively, much better. The water reservoirs in Nagpur region also have a precariously low water stock of only 45.21 per cent.Many farmers in the state, who have lost portions of their kharif crop due to the deficient monsoon, are now worried about the rabi season as well.The Nashik division, comprising Nashik, Ahmednagar, Dhule and Nandurbar, is part of the onion-growing region of the state. As farmers feel the impact of moisture stress due to the deficient monsoon, the fate of the kharif as well as the late kharif crop seems to be doubtful.The onion stock currently in the markets is stored rabi crop, grown and harvested by farmers between December and March.


Jagdish Apshunde, a trader in Nashik’s wholesale market, said as the stock of onion gets over, arrivals of the bulb in the wholesale market are dropping. “If the moisture stress continues, the plantation of rabi onions will be hit,” he said. Other than kharif crop, which is sown in June and harvested after September, farmers in Nashik also grow onions in two other cycles, late kharif and rabi. While the sowing of late kharif crop happens after September, it is harvested in January. The rabi onion is sown in January and harvested after March.Of the three varieties, rabi is the only crop that is easy to store and these onions are supplied to the market till the next kharif crop is ready after September. In case moisture stress hits the rabi crop, the price of the bulb may soar in the early months of 2019.


Similarly, in Marathwada, moisture stress can become a major cause of concern for farmers in rabi season. Ravindra Ingle, president of the Osmanabad branch of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, said moisture stress has already taken a toll on the kharif crop. “Chances of a good rabi crop are dim, and farmers are on the verge of a major financial crisis,” he said.As farmers struggle to find enough water to sustain their crops, plantation of chana, wheat, rabi jowar is expected to be hit.Congress MLA from Latur, Amit Deshmukh, sought government’s intervention. “We are heading for… difficult times and immediate measures are required



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