Palakkad scorches at 37°C, is Kerala's paddy bounty at risk?

Winter is coming, but not to Palakkad
Palakkad scorches at 37°C, is Kerala's paddy bounty at risk?
Palakkad scorches at 37°C, is Kerala's paddy bounty at risk?
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On November 24, Bengaluru was at 31°C, Delhi at 28°, Chennai at 31° and Kochi at 34°.

While these and most other cities were relatively cooler on November 25, Palakkad in Kerala felt like summer was setting in.

On these two days, the temperature touched 37° in this district known as the ‘rice bowl of Kerala’.

Kerala was declared drought affected on October 31. Among the 14 districts in the state, Palakkad has been marked as the most affected.

“In the last 15 years, this is the first time that the district recorded such high temperatures during November. Rainfall was very less during monsoon, rains during North-East Monsoon were negligible this year, resulting in this situation,” Mustafa, Research Co-ordinator at the Integrated Rural Technology Centre (IRTC), Palakkad told The News Minute.

According to IRTC, the district is facing an acute shortage of drinking and irrigation water as Palakkad saw a deficit of 34% during the Southwest monsoon and 75% during the Northeast monsoon. 

Why Palakkad?

“It is because of Palakkad’s terrain. The Western Ghats end at Nelliyampathi without spreading into Palakkad. Then for around 45 km, there are no hills. So, Palakkad exists at the same sea level as Combatore.  When there are pressure variations in Tamil Nadu, vapours from Palakkad district will flow to Coimbatore, and there is no precipitation in Palakkad,” Mustafa explains on why Palakkad suffers the most.

Dr. Binesh K -a senior scientist  told The News Minute that shortage of groundwater also catalyses drought.

“Since the district is at sea level, water doesn’t get stored in the ground. We make use of only the surface water that’s available. Then even a small dip in the rainfall will severely affect water levels,” he said.  

Dr V Subhash Chandra Bose, Director of the Communication and Capacity Development Unit (CCDU) of the state Water Resource Department says that around 30 to 40 years ago, rainwater falling on the Western Ghats took three or four weeks to make its way to the Arabian sea. Now, thanks to rapid urbanisation, the water gets there in two days or less. “So, day by day, nature is losing her capacity to preserve water, which makes man-made preservation of water mandatory,” he stresses.

Mustafa also points out that Palakkad is facing drought for the second consecutive year. 

“Last year also the district faced drought. So even if we get rain in December or January, groundwater replenishment will not be easily possible,” he said.

He also added that this time’s summer would be worse in the district.

“Last time the temperature had gone up to 41.5 degree Celsius. This time, apart from high temperature which would cross last year’s ratings, the summer will be long too,” he said.

Paddy cultivation

As per reports, Palakkad has already lost 47% of its paddy cultivation due to drought.

On November 13th, a seminar conducted in Palakkad by Kerala Riverbed Protection Committee said that paddy cultivation in the district had reduced from 1,60,855 hectares in 1985 to 1,09,208 hectares in 2008. This means an average decrease of 30% within 20 years and in 2012-13, the area declined to 79,201 hectares.

Though at present Palakkad has the highest paddy cultivation in the state, environmentalists predict that it could lose its paddy fields if the high temperatures persist.

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