Imagine 1 year without a crop

Imagine 1 year without a crop

The State government needs to up its game in addressing climate change and its adverse impact on agriculture and the economy, opine government officials, environmental experts and activists

CHENNAI: Agrarian crisis due to climate change has been making headlines across the country, and those who’ve been highlighting it have been accused of being alarmists as well.

But if you’re taking them seriously, know this too: agrarian crisis will worsen if climate change issue is not addressed immediately, warn activists and academicians studying the impact of climate change on the agriculture economy.

Adverse effects wouldn’t be relegated to agriculture alone. If we fail to ready our adaptive capacity, other soft sectors will also be impacted.

“Just 1% change in monsoon rainfall will result in a 0.34% change in India’s agriculture-driven GDP that year,” says Abinash Mohanty, programme lead, Risks and Adaptation, Council for Energy Environment and Water. “A normal monsoon can increase GDP from transport, storage, trade, and communication sectors by 1% to 3% in the agri-dominated states. The impact of climate change also affects migration of people involved in agricultural practices, which might further lead to other problems of social security.”

‘TN needs more impetus...’

Concurring with Mohanty is a senior government official, who admits that Tamil Nadu needs more impetus on climate change. “Being an agriculture State with diversified crops ranging from paddy, wheat, vegetables, ornamental flowers and spices, approach to climate change needs to change at the policy-level, addressing farmer-related issues.”

Gaja is an example of climate change and superstorms are becoming common. So are cloud bursts, which are an emergent threat to TN farmers, opines a senior official who had served in the State Planning Commission. “Recently the State government had launched Uzhavan app to benefit farmers, but a lot of study and change is required when it comes to addressing climate change,” he avers.

Excess rainfall this year

TN Weatherman Pradeep John explains that sudden change in weather conditions impacts agricultural processes. “Each crop has a specific climate pattern. When it’s too hot, farmers cannot cultivate crops like mushrooms which require a lot of moisture-rich soil. When some districts get hailstorms, crops like banana bear the brunt,” he points out. “Earlier, 100 mm of rainfall was recorded in 30 days, whereas now, it’s happening in 20 days. In the last 4 years, we’ve had a good monsoon season. This year so far, we’ve already received almost 70% excess rainfall.”

From the northeast monsoon 2021, even during the summer season, the State witnessed intense rainfall. It led to crop damage and impacted supplies, which led to price fluctuations for a while. Usually, during monsoons, TN farmers cultivate wheat, which requires adequate water. Vegetable production is reduced here.

Experts claim that the monsoon pattern is expected to be the same as last year. Plus, the onset of the northeast monsoon in 2022 is likely to be early.

Check dams conserve fresh water

“Even if we get enough rainfall, most of it is drained into the sea. For the past 60 years, when compared to other states, we’ve lagged in conserving fresh water,” laments R Muthuraj, a farmer in Tenkasi. “The State government must plan for rainwater to seep into the ground and another 50% of it should be stored into the check dams. In the last 10-15 years, 70 check dams were constructed Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka has 30.”

Due to the sudden downpour in the State, cultivation of certain vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, and brinjal harvest has been damaged. “Farmers cultivate as there is enough storage capacity of water, which is not necessary,” he adds.

The State receives almost all vegetables from Karnataka, except for carrots, due to lack of water resources. In TN, it’s cultivated in Ooty, whereas other hill stations such as Kodaikanal and Yercaud are not suitable as there’s no sufficient water.

“It’s high time for the Tamil Nadu government to reframe its climate change action plan particularly in reference to agricultural practices. At present, no in-depth study is sponsored or taken up to understand the changes in cultivating crops and flowering patterns and crops,” observes an official at the State Horticulture Department.

Earlier, 100 mm of rainfall was recorded in 30 days, whereas now, it’s happening in 20 days. This year so far, we’ve already received almost 70% excess rainfall

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