Cropped harvest

AT least 2 million tonnes of loss of rice production is feared in Bangladesh during the current kharif-1 -- a drought which has left small rivers, mostly canals, creeks and ponds dry and rendered hundreds of thousands of pumps used for lifting ground water for irrigation and drinking, dry because of fall of ground water table.

This is the 2nd drought experienced for 2 successive seasons in Bangladesh -- a country where the annual rainfall is normally an average 2,500 millimetres. A severe drought during the kharif-2 season in the northern regions in 1994 led to a production loss of 3 million tonnes of rice, according to official figures. Rice production in the kharif-1 and kharif-2 seasons average over 6 million tonnes and about 10 million tonnes respectively in a normal year.

Incredible though it may sound, weather experts in Bangladesh say some areas in Bangladesh are drought-prone. A study conducted by Hamiduzaman Khan Chowdhury, director, Bangladesh Meteorological Department, shows that severe droughts show a pattern of striking in a 10 to 11-year cycle. Such droughts, however, are experienced during the dry (Kharif - 1) season. Drought during the wet season is rare. This April, which should have been marked by Nor'westers, has seen droughts due to the absence of a seasonal low that normally forms over Bangladesh and adjoining areas during summer. Reportedly about 100,000 shallow tubewells out of about half a million, about 12,000 deep tubewells out of 34,000 and about 9 out of every 10 hand tubewells in the northern districts dried up due to the fall of ground water table.

Last summer the ground water table in the worst drought prone areas of Rajshahi district was 35 feet below the land surface. Reduced flow of water of common rivers due to human interventions at upstreams coupled with the drought turned the situation worse, say water experts.

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