After suffering 'worst floods in 122 years', several regions in Bangladesh face drought; paddy crop badly hit
Floods, followed by drought, have disrupted the crop cycle in Bangladesh, especially in the northern and coastal southwest regions of the country. Of the total 5.62 million hectares of land under aman paddy cultivation, only 25 per cent has been cultivated this year in the delta country.
Rafiqul Islam Montu 13 Aug 2022 6:28 AM GMT
Koyra (Khulna district), Bangladesh
It is a bizarre situation in Bangladesh where one part of the country is facing a post-flood crisis while in another, drought is withering agricultural lands that has badly hit the sowing of aman paddy.
"Last year, at this time we had finished planting the aman paddy," Yusuf Ali Howladar, from Dakshin Daulatpur village of Kalapara upazila, Patuakhali district, told Gaon Connection. Patuakhali district is in south-central Bangladesh. "But, this year, the seedlings I had planted were destroyed due to lack of rain, and reseeding will be difficult," the 57-year-old farmer said.
Over 400 kilometres north of Patuakhali, in the Rajshahi region of northern Bangladesh, heatwave conditions prevail. But, only a month and a half ago, several districts of the northern region were submerged in flood water. This year's floods in Bangladesh were termed as the 'worst floods in 122 years'. But now there is an acute water crisis.
Floods, followed by drought, have disrupted the crop cycle in Bangladesh, especially in the drought-prone areas of the northern part of the country, and the cyclone-prone coastal areas in the southwest.
Also Read: Ground Report: Worst floods in 122 years; over 4 million affected in the second wave of floods in north-east Bangladesh
According to information from the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, of the total 5,620,000 hectares of land under aman paddy cultivation in the country, only a little more than 1,400,000 hectares, or 25 per cent, has been cultivated this year.
"Planting has been delayed this year. But there is still time. Due to lack of rain water, farmers have to use alternative means of irrigation. As a result, their production costs are increasing," Habibur Rahman Chowdhury, director of the field service wing of the directorate, told Gaon Connection. "But we are hopeful that the situation will improve this month," he added.
A similar situation prevails in the Indo-Gangetic plains in India where some key paddy producing states have received deficient monsoon rainfall that has affected paddy sowing.
As part of our new series – Paddy Pain – Gaon Connection reporters travelled across the key paddy producing states to document the impact of deficient monsoon rainfall on the paddy crop this year. And the reports they have come back with seem worrisome, as paddy farmers are reportedly staring at huge crop losses.
And these local crop losses have a global impact as a drop in rice production in the country is likely to disrupt global food supply, as India is the world's top exporter of rice.
This story from Bangladesh is the third in the Paddy Pain series. The first story was from Uttar Pradesh that has reported minus 40 per cent rainfall departure this monsoon season so far. The second ground report was from Bardhaman region in West Bengal, which is known as the 'rice bowl of Bengal'.
Also Read: After a drop in wheat production due to early heatwaves, now paddy crop likely to be hit by deficient rainfall
June-July is the season for aman cultivation in Bangladesh. Farmers collect their year's supply of paddy from the aman crop. Many families repay loans or meet other household needs from the harvest of aman paddy.
Since May this year, millions of farmers in Bangladesh have been suffering due to massive floods, and now the farmers have no water to sow paddy and cultivate aman crops. They are worried about what the outcome is going to be this year with no paddy crop to sustain them.
"Due to insufficient rain aman cultivation is delayed in various upazilas. Only half of the target land is expected to be brought under aman cultivation this season. But as the fields dry up, progress is very slow," A K M Mohiuddin, Deputy Director of Coastal District Patuakhali Agricultural Extension Department, told Gaon Connection.
The district recorded the lowest rainfall of 778 millimetre (mm) in July last year. This year in July rainfall was 181 mm only, Mohiuddin pointed out.
According to information from the Meteorological Office at Rajshahi (central-west Bangladesh), the region received 25 days of rain in a month between June and July last year (354 mm of rain). This year there has been rainfall for only eight days (39.2 mm of rainfall), indicating an 89 per cent decrease in rainfall as compared to last year. Also, the average temperature in Rajshahi in the past month has been 36 degrees Celsius.
Also Read: Trouble in the Rice Bowl of Bengal
Farmers struggle in south-west Bangladesh
Farmers on the cyclone-prone southwest coast of Bangladesh have had a tougher fight. Agriculture in the region is entirely dependent on rain. Due to salt water in the river, irrigated farming is not possible. After Cyclone Aila in 2009, many agricultural lands in the region were submerged for years.
"Our agricultural lands were under salt water for about five years after Aila. There was no crop in the area. Only after an embankment was constructed did we start farming again," Montu Gazi, a 55-year-old farmer from Nalian village in Dakop upazila, Khulna district, told Gaon Connection.
Gazi said as the river water in the area was salty, rainwater was the only hope of farmers. "We harvested rainwater and irrigated our lands with that. But this year there has been no rain, and so we could not start farming," Gazi complained.
Seventy-year-old Arshad Ali is another farmer from the same area. He told Gaon Connection that last year he had a bumper crop of paddy, but this year he could not begin cultivation as his paddy seedlings burnt up in the intense heat.
In the cyclone-prone Koyra upazila of Khulna district, farmers could not cultivate paddy for many years due to salt water and frequent cyclones. But last year, construction of embankments ensured salt water did not enter the fields and the farmers decided to plant paddy.
"We planted paddy after 25 years and we got a good yield," Anwar Hossain from Katmar Char village in Koyra upazila, told Gaon Connection. But, this year has been a washout, Hossain said.
Paddy farmers in Shyamnagar, Assasuni, Paikgacha and Tala, which are cyclone prone areas on the southwest coast of Bangladesh are a worried lot. They depend on rainwater for cultivation as the river water in the area is salty.
"Last year we got a good yield. But this year the season is almost over and I could not start farming. The river in my area is salt water. As a result we are not getting any water for irrigation," 52-year-old Abdul Wahid Moral of Hajatkhali village in Koyra upazila complained.
Lack of rainfall has also impacted the livelihoods of agricultural labourers. They are dependent on paddy cultivation to make a living and they are unemployed so far.
'Bangladesh faces exceptional weather pattern'
According to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, taking into account the average rainfall in the month of July in the past 30 years, this July, there has been 57.6 per cent less rainfall. The average rainfall for July this year was 211 mm, the lowest since 1981.
Abdul Mannan of Bangladesh Meteorological Department told Gaon Connection that the decrease in monsoon rainfall has been alarming. "There is unseasonal rainfall and global warming is the main reason behind this. In June, the north eastern region was drenched in rain. But there were drought conditions the following month," he pointed out.
It is also unusual for heatwave conditions to persist for so long, the meteorologist added. According to him, in the past 41 years, the month of July this year has seen the lowest rainfall in the country.