Agartala: The recent story of tea garden workers in Tripura’s Durgabari Tea Estate marrying two frogs in a bid to “please the god of rain” went viral, and understandably so. What was missed amid all that was a real problem: deficit rainfall in Tripura and, in fact, all of the Northeast.
Tripura recorded the lowest April rainfall in a decade with about a 65 per cent deficit.
The deficit is so high that state meteorologists think that it would have a devastating effect on crop production. And this is not the case just in Tripura. Except for Meghalaya, the situation is similar in other states in the Northeast. In the monsoon season, all the states, including Assam, are facing the same problem.
Speaking with EastMojo, experts said that to date, there is a 60 per cent deficit in seasonal rainfall due to less rain in the last two months.
According to Dhiman Daschaudhuri, Tech Officer (Gramin Krishi Mausam Sewa (GKMS) at Agromet Observatory, ICAR Tripura Centre, Lembucherra, if we go with the rain pattern for the last five years, in January 2017 and 2019, there was no rainfall. But in January 2020 and January 2021, rainfall was recorded at 22.8 mm and 3.8 mm, respectively. February 2017 recorded no rainfall. However, February 2018 registered 0.6 mm of rainfall, and February 2019 received 70.6 mm. But in February 2020 and 2021, the state received zero mm of rainfall.
In March from 2017-2021, the rainfall was highest in 2017 with 74.6 mm rainfall, in 2018, rainfall was 51.8 mm, in 2019, 57.7 mm rainfall was recorded. Last year, it was the lowest at 16.9 mm while this year it recorded 68.5 mm.
What is more worrying is that in April, the pre-monsoon month of Tripura, the rain pattern reduced drastically in the last five years from 289.0 mm in 2017 to 60.0 mm in 2021. The rainfall in 2018 was recorded at 192.0 mm, in 2019, it was 146.2 mm, and in 2020, it was 97.6 mm.
May, which usually sees heavy to heavy rainfall in the region, including Tripura, is also yet to register sufficient rainfall.
According to a meteorological official, Tripura has recorded the lowest rainfall this year since 2011. However, normal rainfall is expected in the next one to two weeks. With that, the deficit could decrease substantially. According to the official, heavy rains are likely in West Tripura, Khowai and Dhalai districts in the coming days.
This deficit will have a severe impact on the production of seasonal crops, experts suggested.
One region where the lack of rainfall has had a huge impact is on thousands of people living in the vicinity of Rudrasagar, also called the ‘lake palace’ of eastern India, built by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in 1939. It is surrounded by over 2,100 acres of water bodies.
Pabitra Kumar Das, secretary, Rudhrasagar Udbastu Fishermen Samabaya Samity (RUFSS), a fisherman cooperative society, told EastMojo that the lake, recognised as a RAMSAR site, is losing its decades-old glory due to drought and no rainfall in the last 9 months.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests had identified ‘Rudrasagar’ lake as one of the wetlands of National Importance for conservation and sustainable use on its biodiversity and socio-economic significance. “Around 2,000 stakeholders live in the vicinity of Rudrasagar. Some families are not stakeholders but are largely dependent on fishery activities. The fish from the lake are sold in local markets. The way the water has dried up, the fish production will be affected immensely,” Das said.
“The society earns Rs 1.50 crore per annum from the stakeholders. However, there have been no activities from April to September last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Rs 50-60 lakh is the gross income based on tourist footfalls and expenditures include maintenance of boats, diesel, and salaries, while Rs 40 lakh is received through lease by the society. We are likely to have a loss of around Rs 2 to 3 crore if sufficient rainfall does not take place shortly,” Das added.