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Floods or no floods, Majuli suffers

- Scientists predict fall in fish & paddy production, with less rainfall

Jorhat, Aug. 7: Majuli is facing a piquant situation this monsoon with an absence of the annual floods and consequently, a fall of nearly 50 per cent in paddy cultivation.

Fish and winter crop production are also predicted to fall steeply as a result.

Kosheswar Pegu, a farmer on the island, said the drop in rainfall and consequent lack of flooding had resulted in many places lying fallow.

“There is much consternation among farmers. In some areas, wide swathes of agricultural land have not been cultivated at all. In other parts, low-lying lands where no cultivation takes place during this season because of heavy floods are being cultivated as there is some standing water in those areas. Overall, 50 per cent of the land has remained uncultivated,” he said.

The populace on the river island is mostly engaged in agriculture or fishing, with pottery and boat-making being ancillary industries.

In Majuli, the xali dhan (paddy) is sown in east and north-east Majuli, which comprises upper Majuli, during the monsoon period and reaped in October-November.

Janu Dutta, a resident of the island, said there were hardly any irrigation schemes on the island and because of the sandy nature of the soil, the annual floods are required to irrigate the soil and grow paddy.

“We can predict that during winter, those areas that are heavily inundated and which are prepared now for the rabi (winter) crop when the water level is right, will completely dry up then because there has been no flooding this year,” he said.

Dutta added that the waters of the rivers generally went into spate and filled up the ponds, waterbodies and other rivulets that went dry in winter receiving no other source of water.

However, this time, without the floods, the fish population in the waterbodies will also go down tremendously.

P. Das, another farmer, said two irrigation schemes at Mohanpur and the Deka Senchowa village areas were lying defunct with the pumps not working.

S.K. Chetia, a scientist at the Regional Agricultural Research Station, Titabar, said, quoting a farmer, that in Majuli, almost 40 per cent of the land had not been cultivated.

A source in the Central Water Commission said the Brahmaputra had hardly risen above the danger level except for a couple of days in the Upper Assam districts.

Another farmer, Sarat Bora, of the low-lying Lahoniyal village area, said every year the 85-odd farmers of the area cultivated 150 bighas of land by operating 50 pumps. However, because of the steep hike in fuel prices, only three farmers had cultivated three bighas in the winter and nothing this season.

“This place gets heavily flooded during the monsoons that is why we usually sow during winter and use the pumps. This usually worked out to Rs 5,000 per bigha but as a result of increased fuel costs, this was no longer feasible. We could have sown now but rainfall is too less. The IMD had predicted an 80 per cent drop in rainfall this year in the Northeast,” Bora added.