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‘Wet’ state stares at scanty rain

Shillong, Aug. 12: If paddy fields are turning into football grounds in some areas of the abode of clouds, as chief minister Mukul Sangma said today, then surely the state is staring at a drought.

Known as the home of clouds, Meghalaya this year has been frowned upon by the rain gods. According to the Indian meteorological department website, the rainfall deficit is in between -20 per cent and -59 per cent.

The Assam-Meghalaya region, which is also declared as rainfall deficit, is experiencing a shortfall of -30 per cent in between June 1 and August 11.

“While travelling to places like Rongjeng and Kharkutta (in East Garo Hills), I saw paddy fields which have turned into football grounds,” Sangma told reporters after he returned from West Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills where he reviewed the drought-like situation.

Following a meeting held today here, Sangma issued a directive to all deputy commissioners in the 11 districts to submit a report to the government by Thursday so that necessary intervention could be made.

Stating that it was for the first time that Meghalaya is facing a drought-like situation, Sangma said the agriculture department and other related departments have been asked to assess the ground situation.

Officials have already been deputed across all districts to make a hands-on assessment to enable the government to work out solutions to mitigate the plight of the farming community.

Even field staff of the agriculture department and other related departments, who are currently on leave, have been asked to return to work. However, this has not been made applicable to those who are on medical leave.

Sangma said farmers have been encouraged to adopt alternative crops like soya, maize and black and green pulses in view of the changing scenario.

Moreover, he said the government is already working with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to draw up plans to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture.

According to the ICAR, the entire Northeast, barring a few districts, experienced severe water scarcity in June and July this year because of less precipitation as a result of climate change, posing a serious threat to agricultural output.

ICAR scientists have also urged farmers in Meghalaya to adopt “climate-smart agriculture” by adhering to recommended climate change mitigation strategies as various parts of the Northeast are facing a drought-like situation because of global warming.

The drought-like situation has an adverse impact on kharif crops that might lead to large-scale yield loss, especially paddy.

A drought-like situation is being experienced in 315 villages in South West Garo Hills. Of this, 162 villages are under Betasing block and 153 under Zikzak. In West Garo Hills, the agriculture department has so far indicated that over 250 villages have been affected.

An official from the agriculture department said till date there has been no report of a drought-like situation in the Khasi-Jaintia hills although work is on to assess the situation. The Khasi-Jaintia hills region has six districts while five districts are under the Garo hills region.

“Even last year, the situation was similar to what we are experiencing now, but by September, we received rainfall,” the official said. He said if the state received scanty rainfall, the problem would become a great cause of concern.

The raising of seeds is usually done in June while transplantation takes place in September, the official said. Harvesting is generally carried out in November.


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