The South Bengal districts are running 40 per cent deficit of rainfall this year, which has left thousands of acres of seedbeds parched and at this crucial juncture the farmers are now desperately eyeing irrigation water, claimed senior officials from five South Bengal districts at the meeting convened by the Burdwan’s Divisional Commissioner here this afternoon.

The officials claimed that the drying seedbeds in several blocks have resulted in delayed sowing in principal paddy growing districts like Burdwan (East), Hooghly from where the farmers are sending SOS cries for irrigation almost every day. The district magistrates from the respective districts accompanied by the Zilla Parishad Sabhadhipatis, Agriculture and Irrigation department officials attended the Divisional Commissioner’s meeting. Senior representatives from the Damodar Valley Corporation also presented reports about the status of the reservoirs in the upper catchment of the Damodar river.

The Divisional Commissioner, Mr Barun Roy said: “The substantial decrease in rainfall, which is only about 40 per cent so far, has started causing inconvenience to cultivation in the districts this year.” He added: “We had a plan to release irrigation water from 25 July but the DVC officials said that the water level in the Maithon and Panchet reservoirs was not so healthy. The water discharge for irrigation may be deferred considering the present scenario.”

The Commissioner asked the officials to sit further on 25 July on the issue and said: “We are hopeful that rainfall during these six days may help recovery of storage condition and considering the status we shall decide on release of irrigation water in phases on that day.” The release of irrigation water through the canals may continue till 30 July in phases, the officials said.

Burdwan (East), the state’s rice bowl, is set to cultivate Amon paddy on 3.80 lakh hectares this year of which cultivation on 2.05 lakh hectares are dependent on DVC’s irrigation.

Cultivation on 1.35 lakh hectares is equipped either with deep tube-well or River Lift Irrigation systems. Deputy Director, Agriculture for Burdwan (East), Mr Jagannath Chatterjee said: “By mid-July each year, our farmers in Burdwan (East) prepare seedbed on 39,000 hectares every year but this year seedbed preparation on only 33,000 hectares is reported as yet due to dearth of rainfall. Also, every year sowing by middle of July reaches an average 20,000 hectares usually, but this year sowing could be possible on a meager 8,000 hectares till yesterday.”

The department has suggested the farmers to choose sowing techniques like Drum Seeder that requires less irrigation water.