Saraiya (Bihar) July 16: An unusually long dry spell is giving sleepless nights to Awadhesh Prasad and Mahesh Yadav, paddy farmers of Lakhsimpur Arai village under Saraiya block in Muzaffarpur district. The paddy saplings are barely alive, and at stake is Awadhesh's savings.
If it does not rain in the next few days, it would become extremely difficult for him, and thousands of others like him in the state, to transplant the saplings of the water-guzzler crop.
Contrary to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast of a near- normal monsoon, Bihar has so far recorded a rain deficit of nearly 40 per so far, officials said on Monday.
It has triggered fears of a drought-like situation among farmers who have faced a similar spectre thrice in the last seven years.
Poor monsoon in two dozen districts out of 37 in Bihar has affected paddy seedlings, sowing and transplantation. Officials say only 14-15 per cent paddy transplantation is completed across the state in the peak period.
"A long dry spell during monsoon is bad for the crop," says Dr Abdus Sattar, a climate change expert at Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University at Pusa in Samastipur district.
He says it is now getting clear that May and June are wetter. "Short and long dry spells are getting frequent in July, August and September. This is based on the long-term daily rainfall data," he said. Transplantation should now be completed by July 20, he added.
"Uncertainty of monsoon rains may be linked to climate change," says Sattar, pointing to abnormal temperature fluctuations, erratic rainfall and uncertainty over the monsoon onset. "These are happening with increased frequency in the state," he said. Monsoon normally hits the state around June 12. But this year it was delayed by almost 14 days.
According to figures of the state disaster management department, over 22 districts recieved 60 per cent less rainfall and half-a-dozen districts, including the state capital Patna, recieved 60 to 86 per cent less rainfall. Only six districts have recorded a normal rainfall. "Overall,against 316.1 mm normal rainfall, the state has recieved 202.5 mm in the last one-and-a-half months," the department said.
The state Agriculture Department is set to roll out a contingency crop scheme and distribution of diesel subsidy soon. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called a meeting to assess the threat of drought-like situation.
Professor Sushil Pathak, head of the Department of Agronomy, Bihar Agriculture University in Bhagalpur, says: "Such a situation is bad for kharif crops as paddy transplantation is delayed."