BIRGUNJ, July 19: Even at the end of June, about 30,000 hectares of fields were still empty in Parsa where 80 percent of the planting should have been complete by now. About 17.5 thousand hectares of fields that had been planted with pump sets have cracks. Even though the fields that are left to be planted have been dug up and cleared, the planting has not begun yet. On the other hand, the seeds in the bed are about to dry up and perish. This year, many fields in Parsa have not witnessed planting even in the middle of the planting season.
“I have never seen such a 'drought' in my life. While farmers would have usually been worried about floods and inundation at this moment, drought has made everyone panic,” said Devnarayan Bhagat, a 70-year-old farmer whose house is in Parsa's Bindwasani-5. “This is not a normal drought, but a terrible natural crisis.”
The cultivation of staple rice has been pushed back this year. Farmers are doing everything possible to save the seeds. “Out of my 18 paddy fields, 14 paddy fields have been harvested using a pump set. It's been 10 days and the field is dry and cracked. We have to water it again. The fire brigade costs Rs 320 per hour, we have to run it for 14 hours at least,” Bhagat continued, “There already were expenses incurred for tractor ploughing, seeds, labour, irrigation, harvesting and weeding. However, this time, having had to irrigate the fields frequently, the cost of irrigation has increased. Even after all of this, the yield is unlikely to be the same as that seen during natural rains.”
Other farmers in Parsa have a similar reaction. 47,775 hectares of land are cultivated in the district. Out of this, 35 to 40 percent of paddy planting is done by mid-July mentions Munilal Prasad, head of the Agriculture Knowledge Center, Parsa. He said that even though the rest of the fields are ready, planting has not been done mainly due to lack of water. Without rain, there is no moisture in the soil.
Farmers say that despite irrigation with fire brigades, the crops are lacking water. “It was getting late to plant my 10 kattha field, the seeds were about to dry up and get destroyed, I bought a two-horse power motor and 400 meters of pipe. After running the motor for about 4 days, I irrigated the field and finished planting a week before,” said farmer Brijkishore Pathera of Dhore, Pakanda Mainpur-2. He added, “It was said that after God Indra would show mercy, it would rain, but this year god has been also angry and so the fields have dried up and turned white. The lands have dried up again and we have to drive the motor for another 4 days.”
After it rained on June 28 and 29, the farmers were happy. However, the water from the rainfall was not enough for planting the fields. However, the farmer was happy that the water would help prepare the fields for planting seeds Even so, the seed grew. But since then the rain has not returned. Farmer Bhagat said that when there is thunder sometime in between, they hope that rain will come. However, as the weather has not cooperated as expected, the farmers are now depressed.
Only one-third of the total cultivable land in the district is connected to the Gandak East Canal. Most of the canals have been destroyed by people, while some canals have been used as public roads. Due to this, a large part of the farms connected by the canal network is separated from their irrigation system. There is no water in the canal. Farmers here are mainly dependent on sky water. "If the government does one deep boring between every 10 to 15 bighas, farming can be done in the days to come," said Bhagat, "otherwise farming is not possible."
Farmers are in more panic due to fertilizers
The lack of fertilizers has also caused problems in planting this year. Farmers say that even in the fields that have been planted, the crops are weak because they have not been able to apply fertilizers. "I would have been relieved if I got even one sack of manure," said Sahev Yadav, a farmer.
Due to the lack of fertilizers, farmers have not started planting even in the fields where the seeds have already germinated and are near the river ponds for irrigation. In this way, due to the lack of irrigation and fertilizers in the Parsa district of Central Terai, planting has been completely affected.
Demand to declare drought-affected areas
Meanwhile, the District Working Committee of Parsa, under the leadership of Nepali Congress Parsa, submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister through the Chief District Officer, demanding that Parsa be declared a drought-affected area. There is a demand from the farmers of Paraa in the memorandum that the district should be declared a drought-prone area as there is no rain in the paddy fields of the district.
As farmers are facing problems due to a shortage of chemical fertilizers at the time of paddy planting, the memorandum submitted in the presence of Nepali Congress District President Janardan Singh Chhetri, central member Ajay Chaurasia, leader Surendra Prasad Chaudhary and others, demands the resolution of the problem by providing free chemical fertilizers to the farmers.