The prevailing drought like conditions due to two and a half month dry spell has severely impacted the livelihood of thousands of farmers of hilly Chenab region.
Over 46,000 farmers on either sides of river Chenab in the erstwhile district Doda, who are partially or totally dependent on farming, are already feeling the heat of prolonged dry spell.
Although Agriculture department has said that the prolonged continuous dry spell has almost destroyed crops over 4615 hectares in the district Doda alone causing loss in crores, but government is yet to declare area as drought hit.
Buoyed by the high prices of garlic, onion and mustard over the last three years, a large number of people, including experts and professionals, have taken loan under Kissan Credit Card (KCC) scheme as high as Rs 3 lakhs per acre.
"Due to dry spell, we are apprehensive of huge loss. Now we are in a dilemma as how to repay the loan we have taken from the bank under KCC," said an unemployed youth Zahid Hussain.
"Farmers are in dire straits as due to three months continuous dry spell, we are neither able to sow Rabi crops like mustard, wheat and oats nor we are able to plant winter vegetables. The situation is pushing us to bankruptcy as acute water shortage has shrivelled chances of good output," said a farmer of village of Dandi Mohammad Sadiq Butt.
"In normal conditions we would sow green fodder and mustard in September. But this year, no activity is going on as everyone is waiting for the rain. Not only farming but our milk production has dropped drastically as farmers are unable to arrange green fodder for the cattle due to prolonged dry spell. The green fodder yield has dropped to just around 150 sacks per acre," Sadiq added.
With even natural springs and streams running dry, the farmers have no choice but to wait for the rain.
Farmers have made big investments in the high-stakes hybrid farming in the region by taking up a record 4615 acres for Rabi crops, hybrid and traditional vegetables this year.
"By now we used to start selling our vegetables like Khol Knoll, mustard leaves and cauliflower but unending dry spell has dehydrated natural water sources as well leaving us high and dry and to face heavy losses," said another farmer Mohammad Wasim.
"Agreed, 46000 families of District Doda associated with farming are facing tough times due to prolonged dry spell and none of the farmers is ready to start sowing, With the result the stocks of seeds of Rabi crops procured by the department is lying in the stores," said District Agriculture Officer extension Doda Mohammad Ashraf Brig.
"We have deployed our field staff in all the Panchayats to help the farmers. The farmers are advised not to plough their fields manually or traditionally and use power tillers to retain the moisture of the soil. Ten minutes of rain is enough to start sowing. They can even use water from harvesting tanks, if they have any," Officer added.