After experiencing floods in July due to incessant rain and stagnant flood water still present in several areas, the first 11 days of August have seen a significant rain deficit in two major paddy-growing states in the northern region – Punjab and Haryana. The worrisome trend comes at a time when more than 4 million hectares are dedicated to rice cultivation in these two states.
In Punjab, where 31.60 lakh hectares have already been dedicated to water-intensive paddy cultivation, and with ongoing sowing activities, the period from August 1 to 11 brought only 27.1. mm of rain, well below the normal requirement of 63 mm, resulting in a rain deficit of 57%. Similarly, Haryana received 28.9 mm of rain during the same period, as opposed to the expected 57..6 mm, marking a deficit of 49.8%. August is considered crucial from the rain point of view in this region due to the huge area under paddy.
Experts said that during the paddy cultivation season, the crops require flood irrigation for a minimum of 4-5 weeks, followed by regular irrigation every 4-5 days. Even a single week of rain deficit places a considerable burden on groundwater resources, which need to sustain irrigation for over 40 lakh hectares of farmland. Although the cumulative rainfall for the current rainy season, spanning from June 1 to August 10, remains in surplus, concerns are growing. While Punjab received 326.1 mm of rain, surpassing the normal of 286.9 mm by 14%, Haryana recorded 347 mm, a significant 30% surplus compared to the usual 261.4 mm for this period.
Ajmer Singh Dhatt, director research at Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) in Ludhiana, said that uniform rainfall across the entire paddy-growing region is essential to alleviate the stress on groundwater resources. Variances in rainfall distribution or erratic patterns can only partially serve the purpose of saving ground water despite overall cumulative surplus rainfall. He added that the government is directing its efforts toward utilising canal water, but in areas lacking access to canals, farmers must rely on their tube wells.
Adding to the concerns, seven districts with huge area under paddy crop in Punjab and three in Haryana have experienced cumulative rainfall deficits from June 1 to August 11 this year. The data reveals stark deficits in various districts, including Fazilka (62% deficit), Muktsar (60% deficit), Barnala (47% deficit), Sangrur (45% deficit), Mansa (32% deficit), Moga (31% deficit), and Bathinda (24% deficit). In Haryana, Hisar, Jind, and Fatehabad have recorded deficits of 40%, 24%, and 22%, respectively.
Last year in the same period, Fazilka recorded 20% deficit, Muktsar 52% surplus, Barnala 23% Surplus, Sangrur 21% deficit, Mansa 17% deficit, Moga, 47% deficit, and Bathinda 42% surplus. In Haryana, Hisar, Jind and Fatehabad had recorded 32% surplus, 32% surplus and 94% surplus, respectively.