Andhra Pradesh is witnessing unrelenting heat, depleting ground water, fall in reservoir levels as the delayed and sluggish monsoon has left the fields parched and farmers worried.
With no sign of arrival of the southwest monsoon any time soon, with maximum temperatures still hovering over 43 degrees Celsius at many places, the state is reeling under the longest and harshest summer in recent times.
The rainfall deficit for the current month is at 64.4 per cent. The deficit in the coastal region comprising nine districts and known for its fertile land is 57 per cent and it is even higher in four districts of Rayalaseema, notorious for recurring droughts.
WHY IT MATTERS
The drought-like situation last week drove a farmer in Prakasam district of coastal Andhra to commit suicide. Addanki Venkateshwara Raju, 67, killed himself as all the 15 bores he dug on his 4.67 acre land had failed. He had a debt burden of over Rs 2.50 lakh.
The situation has also created fodder shortage. Farmers in districts like Nellore and Prakasam are struggling to get fodder for their livestock.
The unusual long dry spell has also led to water scarcity. People in towns like Vizianagaram, Ongole, Giddaluru and Kadapa are getting piped drinking water once in four to five days.
The tankers deployed by authorities too are proving insufficient to meet the demand. As many as 20 towns are getting water once in two or three days. Officials have said if there are no rains by month end the situation may worsen.
There is a shortfall of 453 million liters of drinking water in urban areas every day. In 110 urban areas, there are 12.50 lakh tap connections. Authorities are currently supplying 1,378 million liters of water per day against the requirement of 1,831 million liters.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR
Last year's drought has also contributed to the water supply situation this year. As many as 38 reservoirs had dried up completely in April.
The present water storage in major reservoirs was 171.11 TMC as of 15 June against 193.43 TMC same day last year.
Underground water table has also depleted by an average 2.80 metres. In Rayalaseema, it has depleted by 7.26 metres. Borewells dug up to even 150 feet have dried up.
Southwest monsoon normally arrives in the state in the first week of June but this time there is a delay. The monsoon arrived on Kerala coast on 8 June and was expected to enter Andhra Pradesh on 13 June.
THE BIG PICTURE
The weatherman said that unless cyclone Vayu in the Arabian Sea weakens completely, the southwest monsoon is likely to remain sluggish.
With no pre-monsoon or monsoon rains, the state is still reeling under heatwave conditions.
Vepada in Vizianagaram on Saturday, 15 June, recorded the highest temperature of 46.8 degrees Celsius.
Tangutur in Prakasam district was the hottest on 16 June, with a maximum temperature of 45.8 degrees Celsius.
According to Real Times Governance Society (RTGS) of Andhra Pradesh, temperature above 43 degrees was recorded in 42 places on Sunday. The maximum temperature in many places is five to six degrees above the normal.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that heatwave conditions will prevail in the state over the next few days. It has also issued a warning of severe heatwave conditions at isolated places.
With no respite in sight, the government has extended half-day schools till 22 June. The education department has asked school managements to strictly adhere to the half-day timings from 8 am to 12.30 pm.
As a result of continuing heat, the electricity consumption has increased. It was 194.21 million units in the entire state on June 14 against 168.14 million units the same day last year.
Skymet Weather, a private weather forecast company, had issued an advisory for farmers in the first week of June against sowing of crops for Kharif season for at least the next 10-15 days as monsoon onset was going to be mild and the progress was expected to be sluggish.
Farmers growing maize, tur and cotton were advised to delay the sowing of the crops till second week of June. With no rains even in the second and third week of June, the sowing operations have gotten further delayed.
Paddy and chilli farmers in south coastal Andhra were worried. Last year too, they suffered losses due to lack of timely rains.
Of the 13 districts, only Krishna, Guntur, East Godavari and West Godavari are canal-irrigated. The rest of the state depends on rain-fed agriculture.
The conditions have badly hit the tenant farmers, whose numbers in the state are estimated to be 16 lakh. Many complained about the delay in getting bank loans.
Last year, 347 blocks were declared drought-affected in nine of 13 districts. The state received 32 per cent deficient rainfall between June 2018 and April 2019, affecting kharif and rabi crops.
(Published in an arrangement with IANS)
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