Summer Sowing Drops by 32% in Maharashtra as Water Crisis Intensifies

The drought-like situation has taken away the farm sector's hope from summer crop, with sowing in the state recording a decline of 32% compared to last year.

Battling repeated monsoon failures and scorching summer heat has led to an acute water shortage in Maharashtra. Water stock in dams dipped to 13.1% from 16.3% in Maharashtra from May 13 to 28, while tanker numbers rose from 5,493 to 6,209. The poor water reserves and dropping groundwater table in the state have caused a drought-like situation. Now, reports suggest a significant decline of 32% in the overall sowing activities of summer crops across the state compared to the previous year.

Though summer crop forms the smallest chunk in the state, the biggest being monsoon, or kharif crop. It is harvested in April-May.

According to the estimates, summer crops cover an average 1.6 lakh hectares of area in Maharashtra. This year, only 52% of this area is put under cultivation.

The drought-hit regions across the state are finding it increasingly difficult to tackle the water woes and provide water for domestic as well as irrigation purposes. Marathwada witnessed a mere 10% sowing of summer crops this season. Meanwhile, western Maharashtra reported 26% sowing.

Crop-wise, the area under groundnuts saw the maximum decline of 59% compared to last year, followed by oilseeds which experienced a decline of 58%. The area under sunflower also saw a decline of 45%. Moreover, the sown area under cereals dropped by only 12%, while that under pulses slid by 32%. All in all, maize was the worst-hit cereal crop which recorded a decline of 60%.

As per Food and Agriculture Organization, both groundnut and maize require very high amount of water of around 500-800 mm/total growing period. During summers, the water requirements of crops increase due to an increased evapotranspiration—process in which water is lost to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and by transpiration from plants.

With forecasts suggesting a below-normal monsoon over many parts of the country this year. Monsoon predominantly fuels its agricultural sector. With the hopes of a good monsoon seeming bleak, farmers have abstained from sowing summer crops in Maharashtra, until they are made available with irrigation facilities, which can eke out their water requirements.

As of May 30, Maharashtra has around 12.5% of water available in its dams. The parched Aurangabad region holds just 2.81%. Around 28 dams across the state are at a dead-storage level. In the past few years, frequent deficits in monsoon rainfall have affected many regions of Maharashtra. In 2015, Marathwada and Madhya Maharashtra received 40% and 33% less than normal rainfall during monsoon while in 2017, Vidarbha received 23% less than normal. Last year also, Marathwada faced a 22% deficiency while Vidarbha and Madhya Maharashtra faced a deficit of 8% and 9% respectively.

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