Climate change is real. There is no unheard of drought in the rainy state of Assam. Hot temperatures have affected the tea gardens of the state for over a decade. Now, places that have recently experienced unexpected and prolonged droughts are gaining attention. Dipantor Soh, a farmer from Mirigaon village under the Sarupathar revenue division, said, “I have never seen a drought in the region before.” The Assam government declared the revenue divisions of Sarupathar and Golaghat as drought-hit a week ago.
The state government does not provide any irrigation facilities, for which the farmers have been left to depend on themselves. “I paid Rs 1,150 per bigha of land for three hours,” Soh said. He owns seven bighas of land and grows rice and tea there. But very little could be made of their efforts. Their agricultural production suffered. When asked about the estimated yield of his crop, he put it at 50 percent of the expectation. It means their monthly income is less than or equal to Rs.10,000.
Another villager of Sarupathar revenue mandal also faced a similar situation. Kuldhar Gogoi, in his late 50s, is a part-time farmer. He said the scale of the drought was such that large soil cracks developed in his field. The last time he saw a drought of such intensity was 10 years ago. The soil conditions were not ideal for paddy cultivation. “The soil should have been flooded by this time,” he said. Generally, rice seeds are sown in the soil after one month of plowing the soil.
But fearing the unpredictable weather, he sowed the seeds of the crop immediately after plowing the soil. So did many other farmers. “This affected the quality of the rice. I will make only 30 percent of the crop yield this time,” he said. On July 16-17, Assam’s Finance Minister Ajanta Neog and Irrigation Minister Ashok Singhal visited drought-hit villages — exactly three days after the state declared them drought-prone. It should only be accompanied by heavy rain to irrigate the fields. “Now rain-dependent farming has come to the rescue,” Kuldhar said.
Irregular Rain Pattern:
According to the records of the India Meteorological Department, between June 1 and July 28, Assam received 21 percent less rainfall than normal. This means that the state received 625.3 mm of rainfall as against the normal rainfall of 792.3 mm. In addition, the Golaghat district recorded a cumulative decrease of 1 percent in weather data from June 1 to July 25. The daily deficit — last recorded on July 25 — was 100 percent then.
Sunit Das, a scientist at the Regional Meteorological Center in Borjhar, Guwahati, said it was no surprise that he had warned of a rain crisis in April. Sunit also denied the role of climate change. Professor Arup Kumar Sharma, of the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, said that when he studied the rainfall data recorded over 100 years in the tea gardens of Golaghat district, an alarming pattern was noticed. “Climate change is certainly happening. Even if total annual rainfall increases or stays the same compared to last year, there will be prolonged droughts and floods.”
According to him, the rainfall in Golaghat district has always been less as compared to other regions of Assam. A hydroelectric project, the Doyand of NEPCO (North Eastern Electric Power Corporation), has disrupted the natural flow of the Doyang River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River. From the Doyang Sarupathar area, it falls into the Dhansiri river. “Floods are important for paddy cultivation. But they have stopped since the construction of the dam,” said Hema Phukan, a retired professor and president of Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha, a farmers’ rights organization in Assam.