Calcutta, Aug. 8: Lack of rain in Jharkhand is costing Bengal dear.
A dry spell through July in the neighbouring state has drastically brought down water levels of the Damodar and the Barakar that feed Bengal’s rice bowl — Burdwan, Bankura and Hooghly.
As a fallout, the Damodar Valley Reservoir Regulation Committee has decided to cut down the daily release of water from the Maithon and Panchet reservoirs by 4,000 acre-feet.
About 12,000 acre-feet is now being released daily from the two Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) reservoirs through the Durgapur Barrage for irrigation in south Bengal. The normal supply of 16,000 acre-feet was scaled down two days ago.
“The situation has turned from bad to worse. We are in touch with the meteorological department and, from what we gathered, heavy rain over Jharkhand is not immediately expected. So, we have requested the Bengal government to scale down its demand. Now on, we will review the situation daily,” a senior reservoir regulation committee official said over phone from Maithon.
Today, water at the Maithon reservoir stood at 138.96 metres. It was at 120 metres in Panchet, the minimum level that has to be maintained. In Maithon, the water level is 7 metres above the minimum required level.
Irrigation minister Ganesh Mondal said the DVC had no option but to cut down the discharge. “How will the DVC give us water if the levels of the Damodar and the Barakar go down' We are keeping close contact with the DVC and hoping that there is heavy rain soon,” Mondal said.
Lack of consistent heavy rain in south Bengal has already led to a huge backlog in transplantation of aman paddy, the major crop around this time on which the fate of about 70 lakh farmers hinges. Only about 50 per cent of the transplantation has been completed on about 34 lakh hectares in the south Bengal districts.
Agriculture secretary Sukhbilas Barma said transplantation progressed, though slowly, in the past week with the help of whatever rainwater was available. “If we get heavy and widespread rain in the next one week, we will be able to make considerable progress,” he added.
Barma said there were reports of some rain from Hooghly, Burdwan, Birbhum, Murshidabad and the two Midnapores. “We have called our district officials on August 17 to assess the situation.”
The chief meteorologist at the agriculture directorate, Swadesh Mishra, said: “We need either a low pressure or a depression in the Bay of Bengal to bring heavy rain in Jharkhand. But, at the moment, there is no such system over the bay. There are monsoon clouds over south Bengal but the columns are not tall enough for widespread and heavy downpour.”