After prolonged heatwave, poor monsoon rainfall threatens paddy cultivation in Bihar

Rainfall was less than normal in 37 of Bihar's 38 districts, with 10 districts witnessing a rainfall deficit of 90-100% in June

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Tuesday 27 June 2023
Photo for representation. Source: iStock

After a prolonged period of heatwave conditions, Bihar is witnessing a long dry spell with poor monsoon rains.

Residents, mainly farmers, have been restlessly waiting for the dark, rain-bearing clouds and rainfall, which have so far eluded them. 

A combination of heatwave and poor rainfall is bound to affect paddy cultivation and result in a drought-like situation.

Right now, farmers are struggling to save the paddy seedlings that they have somehow germinated. A majority of them have prepared paddy seedlings on their small farm patches with the help of groundwater.

During the 20-21 days of heatwave in June, the state recorded the highest temperature of 45.9 degrees Celsius at Warsaliganj in Nawada district and Dehri in Rohtas district. This was the maximum temperature recorded this summer.

More than a dozen districts recorded temperatures above 44°C and the mercury dipped below 40°C only from June 22.

Till June 26, 2023, rainfall in Bihar was 78 per cent less than normal, Sanjay Kumar, a scientist at the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Patna, said. “This is a major deficiency of rain for the month of June.”

The normal precipitation for June is 122.8 millimetres (mm) but so far, the eastern state recorded just 27.6 mm, according to official data till June 26, 2023.

As many as 37 of the state’s 38 districts are facing rainfall deficits, according to IMD’s data.

Aurangabad, Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Araria, Purnea, Madhepura, Patna, Bhagalpur, Saharsa, Khagaria, Saran, Siwan and Vaishali districts received 90-100 per cent less-than-average rainfall.

There is a rainfall deficit of 80-90 per cent in Bhojpur, Arwal, Darbhanga, East Champaran, Buxar, Gaya, Madhepura, Munger, Jamui, Rohtas, Nalanda and Nawada districts.

Kishanganj is the only district that recieved a near normal rainfall.

There is little chance of rainfall in Bihar in the remaining days of June, Kumar said, due to a weak monsoon system. “We are expecting rain to start in the first week of July.”

The monsoon system is weak and not active in Bihar and it is moving towards central, said Asish Kumar, scientist with IMD Patna.

Monsoon arrived in the northeastern parts of the state on June 12, a day ahead of expected date, according to officials of IMD Patna. But the monsoon system got obstructed by Cyclone Biparjoy and intense westerly winds, and could not advance on time, they added.

Monsoon will cover the entire state by June 25-26, the scientists said.

Small and medium farmers will face the brunt of a long dry spell because they are struggling to save seedlings due to lack of rains and irrigation facilities, according to a senior official at the state agriculture department.

Seedlings are ready at several places but farmers are not in a position to start paddy transplantation in view of dry farmland, which have developed cracks due to heavy deficit of rainfall during the ongoing monsoon.

Most of the big and well-off farmers in the state are also uncertain about going for paddy transplantation since it is an expensive process. Groundwater has reportedly depleted at most places and big ponds, canals and rivers have dried up during the three weeks long spell of heatwave this month, officials said.

If rainfall was normal, nearly 40-50 per cent of paddy seedlings should have been transplanted so far, they added.

The total coverage area of paddy cultivation in the state was around 3.5 million hectares this kharif season, according to official data. 

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