With the monsoon proving a big letdown in the agriculturally important month of August in Odisha, the telltale signs of drought are becoming conspicuous every day in the State. The major development is soil moisture has taken a sharp hit in the month when forecasts predict a further rise in aridity in many of the districts in the coming days.
As per the latest forecast made by US-based NCEP, Odisha is going to witness scanty rainfall till August 30. The prediction shows that the precipitation in the State will be in the range of 30-40 mm only. As a consequence, it predicts a dip in the soil moisture up to (-) 4 cm during the period of Aug 22-30.
"Good rain in August is crucial as the sowed crops grow up, In mid-September, the crops reach the flowering stage. A rise in aridity in the month will prove harmful for the crops. Moreover, if the aridity extends up to mid-September, then farmers will stare at crop loss," explained a senior official in the State Agri Extension Services department.
IMD Paints A Drought Outlook
As per the drought report of IMD, Pune, not a single district in Odisha falls under the wet category. While Keonjhar, Jajpur and Bhadrak have been labelled as extremely dry, as per the estimation of the Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI), the districts of Sambalpur, Balangir, Angul and Gajapati are tagged as severely dry. And Ganjam, Kandhamal. Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Subarnapur fall under the moderately dry districts. The rest of the districts come under the mildly dry category.
The report shows that all the districts in the State, during the period of June 1 to August 18, have recorded negative SPI values. Scoring of negative values by almost all districts in the State reveal very big - it reflects dip in soil moisture, besides a drop in rainfall vis-a-vis the normal.
Has Drought Set In Odisha?
The IMD report further states that if the 3-month (June 1- Aug 18) period actual SPI is measured over (-) 1, then it is considered that the drought event is set to start in the region. Moreover, if the value is over 2, then it is considered that drought is gripping that area.
In Odisha, the actual SPI of Jajpur and Bhadrak is estimated very high at (-)3.12 and (-)2.76, respectively. While it is over (-)2 in Keonjhar, a high of 11 other districts have a value of more than (-)1. In the rest of the 16 districts, the value is negative but below (-)1.
Crop Situation In Odisha
The latest report available with the State Agriculture department shows that when paddy sowing this Kharif is down by nearly 6 lakh hectares, the total crop coverage, including Kharif pulses, cotton etc, has declined by nearly 7 lakh hectares.
Moreover, reports suggest that the falling soil moisture will be having an adverse impact on the growing crops in the farm fields across the State. The yield per hectare and quality of paddy will be severely affected, rued a senior OUAT scientist.
The Footnote: Agriculture experts here are surprised as the Odisha government has not yet declared any district in the State as drought-hit.