The heavy rains for last several days have brought cheers to the faces of a large number of farmers, facing scarcity of irrigation water for their paddy fields and apple orchards, in different parts of Kashmir.
The respite naturally is temporary and not a permanent solution for such problems. The concerned government departments, particularly the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, will have to plan long term strategies and execute those to meet the increasing challenges of irrigation water shortage in future.
This scarcity sometimes leads to a drought like situation. This time the affected farmers panicked as they could not irrigate their fields after planting the paddy saplings. Earlier, the orchardists had a tough time in absence of the irrigation water.
The comparatively lesser precipitation in winter and spring and then prolonged dry spell and hot weather conditions in spring and this summer, led to drastic dropping of water level in rivers, their tributaries, other streams, and consequently in irrigation canals. The canals dried up in many areas. A sizeable number of irrigation schemes became inoperative.
The rice fields developed cracks and saplings started wilting. Even as the higher authorities swung into action and asked the concerned officials to help the affected farmers, but the officials at the ground level expressed helplessness.
The low water level and drying up of the canals were proving a stumbling block. The shortage of water pumps ( or drought pumps) with the department added to the woes of farmers.
The officials in some areas said that they had issued an advisory well in advance telling farmers not to go for paddy cultivation this year and opt for other crops like maize and pulses since the irrigation water will not be available adequately.
They added that they had explained to farmers that due to lesser precipitation in winter and spring, there will be shortage of irrigation water.
The officials were right telling the farmers so, but they have to plan now to deal effectively with such type of scenario in future. There is no guarantee that heavy snowfalls will occur several times in coming winters leading to better irrigation facility in summer.
And also that the maximum temperature will not rise so quickly as it did in Spring and Summer this year. So, new plans have to be formulated to solve this problem.
New feasible irrigation schemes need to be created and necessary repairs and de-silting done in the existing irrigation canals. And that too in time bound manner.
Water pumps should be also purchased in advance in required number so that those are provided to farmers when the need arises.