Drought has wrecked more than half of the plantation crops in Kerala, according to the Central delegation deputed by an inter-ministerial committee to study the ground situation. As the state is home to a good deal of plantation crops like pepper and cardamom, the recovery from the drought is likely to take time. The delegation, led by Ashwin Kumar (joint secretary, agricultural ministry), met Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and said that the report will be submitted in a week to the inter-ministerial committee, including the home, finance and agriculture minister. Kerala has been going through what the experts call the worst drought in the last 115 years.
Since the state has sought Central drought relief assistance beyond its mandate of `991 crore, the delegation has asked for specific reports and supporting documents to justify the plea. This would be taken into account, before making the final recommendation of relief assistance, Kumar stated. Impact of drought on plantation crops has aggravated the ground situation, much more than that in other states, the Kerala CM told the Central team. “Besides upsetting drinking water supply and causing crop damages , this year the drought has shaken the livestock economy too,” Vijayan pointed out. “To address the issue of water scarcity, the state government has been considering measures, including cloud-seeding,” he added.
After visiting the drought-hit regions in six districts, especially Palakkad, Thrissur and Wayanad, Kumar said his team could realise the grim situation of the farmers, especially those living in the border areas of Wayanad district. The team studied the impact on Mangalam dam, Muthalamada, Kollangode, Madampara and Chulliyar to inspect the depleting water level. Dearth of monsoon has affected the agriculture sector and production might decline drastically. Farmers in Wayanad conveyed apprehensions about the fall in production in pepper, paddy, coffee and tuber crops.
The drought has causes losses to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore, according to state agricultu0re minister V S Sunil Kumar. A team led by NITI Ayog deputy adviser Manesh Chowdhury had visited the Peringakulam mobile water filter unit, Nettissery paddy fields, Kolazhy water kiosk and the Bharathapuzha. According to Thrissur district collector A Koushigan, as much as one-third of the population in the agricultural economy of Thrissur district was affected by drought.