Rain deficit: Crops at risk as Karnataka farmers struggle with drought-like conditions in the midst of monsoon

Since onset of monsoon, the coastal region saw a 22 percent rain deficit; North & South Karnataka saw 16 and 26 percent rain deficit.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Aug 28, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdatedAug 28, 2023 | 10:00 AM

Karnataka Farmer Rain Deficit Monsoon

Amidst the lush landscapes and fertile fields of Karnataka, a sense of unease has settled among farmers midway through this year’s monsoon season.

The tranquillity that usually accompanies the rejuvenating rains has been replaced by apprehension, as the state grapples with a stark reality: A rain deficit of a staggering 66 percent that was recorded in August.

For the agricultural heartland that relies heavily on the blessings of the monsoon, this deficit paints a worrying picture, igniting fears of potential crop losses and a ripple effect on livelihoods.

Agriculture activities picked up in July as the state received incessant showers, recording 28 percent excess rainfall. All the regions — including Kalyana Karnataka and North Karnataka — witnessed over 80 percent of sowing.

However, poor rains in August have put the entire agrarian community in a crisis.

As many as 113 talukas in 29 districts are likely to be declared drought-hit regions by the state government in the coming days, claimed sources in the Department of Agriculture.

Farmer Aravind Kulkarni, a resident of Vijayapura, told South First: “The situation is grim in the region because of lack of rains in the monsoon. The standing crops such as toor dal, onion and sunflower are crying for rain. If we do not receive any rain in the next one or two weeks, we will lose all the standing crops.”

Region-wise rain deficit

Since the onset of the monsoon in Karnataka in June, the state has witnessed an overall 25 percent rain deficit. In the last three months, June and August saw a deficit in rain in all the regions of the state.

According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNMDC): “South and North Karnataka reported a whopping 70 and 75 percent rain deficit, respectively, in August.”

The KSNMDC reports added: “Malnad and coastal Karnataka also reported a rain deficit by 79 and 70 percent, respectively, this month (August). All 31 districts — including Belagavi, Bengaluru Urban, Mysuru, Ballari, Bagalkot, Shivamogga, Udupi and Chikkamagaluru — recorded over 50 percent rain deficit.”

Since the onset of the monsoon in June, the coastal and Malnad regions of Karnataka recorded a 22 and 40 percent rain deficit, respectively, while North and South Karnataka reported a rain deficit of 16 and 26 percent, respectively.

Drying reservoirs

Meanwhile, of the 13 water reservoirs in Karnataka, only two dams have water storage of over 95 percent and six reservoirs have less than 70 percent water storage. There is only 67 percent water left in all the reservoirs in the state combined — at a time they should be brimming over.

The Lal Bahadur Shastri Water Reservoir (Almatti Dam) is the only reservoir that has been filled to the brim in the state.

“The reservoir has 122.38 tmcft percent of water against the maximum storage capacity of 123.08 tmcft. The outflow is 1,463 cusecs and inflow is nil,” noted the KSNDMC.

Krishnaraja Sagar Water Reservoir has left with only 50 percent of water storage. “The inflow stands at 2,461 cusecs and outflow at 7,371 cusecs. Around 24.60 tmcft of water is stored against the maximum capacity of 49.45 tmcft,” according to the KSNDMC.

Farmers worry

Farmers who rely extensively on rainfall are facing increasing distress as the dry spell persisted throughout the month of August across Karnataka.

Agriculture activities picked up in all the regions of Karnataka after ample July rains. However, the dry spells in August raised concerns among agrarians of losing standing crops.

According to the Department of Agriculture: “The state has witnessed around 80 percent sowing in all the regions of the state.”

Onion, jowar, toor dal, green gram, sunflower, groundnut, sugarcane, chilly, paddy, maize and wheat are the major crops grown in the state.

Vijayapura farmer Aravind Kulkarni, who feared losing his standing crop, said: “The government has to declare all the 13 talukas of the district as drought-hit because none of the regions recorded good rains.”

He also noted: “The Almatti Dam is filled to the brim because of heavy rains in Maharashtra not due to the local rains. In the rainy season, we are experiencing a climate similar to that of summer.”

Another farmer, Ranjith K, a resident of the Chikkamagaluru district, told South First: “Monsoon has completely failed this year. We have cultivated paddy but there is no rain.”

He added: “It has been over 15 days, and we have hardly witnessed any rains in Malnad. Water-holding capacity is very low in the region. We are now dependent on borewells to keep the land wet. There is no water in any of the streams because of lack of rains,” Ranjith said that the farmers’ condition has worsened.

‘Declare Karnataka drought-hit’

Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association President Kurbur Shantkumar told South First: “Crops and nurseries are drying up because of poor rains. Even the water has reduced in over 70 percent borewells, which is affecting the crops.”

He added: “We have hardly any rains and water left for irrigation, but the state government is more worried about farmers in Tamil Nadu than Karnataka. Despite opposition, the government released about 10 tmcft of water to the neighbouring state.”

The finger, clearly, was pointed towards Karnataka’s Congress government under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

Shantkumar continued: “Karnataka’s farmers are struggling to get sufficient water and fodder for their crops and cattle, respectively. The state government should initiate necessary steps to address the farmer woes.”

He also said: “We have already submitted a memorandum to the state government to declare Karnataka drought-hit. However, the Congress government is busy consolidating its vote bank for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections instead of working towards the grievances of the agrarian community.”

Stating that the government had begun the drought assessment process, Bagalkot’s Agriculture Department Joint Director Laxman SK told South First: “The government has already kick-started the process for drought assessment. All the districts have submitted a primary report about the sowing and rainfall to the government.”

He added: “As many as 113 talukas in 29 districts are likely to be declared drought-hit. The assessment process is still underway. Bagalkot recorded about 80 percent rain deficit in August.”

Laxman also explained: “This has affected the standing crops in most of the talukas. There is moisture stress in the soil in nine talukas. Around 80 percent of sowing has been reported across the district. We will submit the final report at the earliest.”

The drought assessment will be carried out by the Departments of Agriculture, Horticulture and Revenue.