Groundwater depletion and reservoir levels pose a threat to Telangana’s paddy crop

With reservoir levels depleting and groundwater levels plummeting, paddy farmers in Telangana face a tough time this summer. As they are not able to water the paddy crop at the crucial stage, they face the prospect of losing 15-20 per cent of the output this season.

Telangana, the biggest paddy-growing state in the country during the rabi season, has sown paddy in about 51 lakh acres in the current season, which is lower than last year’s 57 lakh acres.

The crop, currently in the ‘panicle initiation to grain filling stage’, requires three rounds of irrigation.

Groundwater levels fell by 1.36 metres to 8.70 metres (depth to water level) in February 2024 from 7.30 metres in the same month last year. The water storage levels in major reservoirs fell to 270 TMC as of today, against 413 metres, showing bleak prospects.

“The rabi season started late by a month as the kharif season got extended by a month because of rains early in the season. We are mid-way in March and the crop would require at least 2-3 rounds of watering. The reports of declining groundwater levels from different parts of the State are worry some,” an agriculture scientist told businessline.

Paddy area

The paddy area in the rabi season, like in the kharif season, has gone up significantly over the last three years thanks to the increase in irrigation facilities. A chain of reservoirs, led by the Kaleshwaram project, helped the State increase the availability of water for agriculture.

The State’s rabi area, which stood at 55 lakh acres, went up to 72 lakh acres last year, reflecting increase in water availability . The paddy area increased to 56 lakh acres last year as against the normal area of 40 lakh acres.

Encouraged by good demand and assured prices for the commodity, farmers increased the area. This year, however, their hopes have been dashed by depleted groundwater levels.

“In some areas, farmers are going for new borewells to draw water and salvage the crop. Going by the indications, the output is likely to be hit by at least 15-20 per cent. Yields too are likely to come down,” S Malla Reddy, a leader of All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), has said.

FCI extension

Meanwhile, the Union Government has extended the deadline for the State to mill and deliver the rice from the 2022-23 rabi season to the Central pool to May 15, 2024.

“The State must complete the delivery of custom-milled rice to the Food Corporation of India by May 15. It should happen before they start the delivery of the 2023-24 rabi rice,” a top official of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said in a letter to the State Government.

However, it cautioned against delivering recycled rice to the FC and directed the FCI to monitor such wrongful practices. Rice recycling refers to malpractice where unscrupulous traders buy back the PDS (public distribution system) rice at a cheaper rate and deliver it to the FCI at a higher price point.

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