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August 27, 2020

Monster rains: a bane for plain croppers, a boon for desert herders

Business

August 27, 2020

HYDERABAD: The devastating downpour has hit standing crops and vegetable plants nurseries hard, but farmers/herders in

Thar desert are happy as more rains mean more fodder for livestock and better livelihood.

According to reports pouring in from different parts of the province, including Sanghar, Matiari, Tando Allahyar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Dadu, Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Umarkot, and Tharparkar districts, heavy rains have flooded the fields of cotton crop at the time of its harvesting, as farmers were busy picking in many areas.

In others parts nurseries of onion, tomato, and late variety of chilli, ready to be planted, have also come under rainwater, causing uncertainty among growers.

The farmers had already prepared their pieces of land for plantation of abovementioned veggies, but the record showers disrupted their plans.

Mir Zafarullah Talpur, a grower in Tando Jan Muhammad, sharing his observations, said the farmers in Kunri, Umerkot, Dighri, Naukot, Samaro and Jhudho had lost their fine quality chilli due to heavy rains. “An up to 12-hour long continuous rainfall inundated the crops over a wide area,” he observed.

Gulab Shah, a grower from Keti Bunder coastal area, said the rain had been pouring since the last 24 hours, causing damages to standing crops of Paan (Betel leaves), tomato, banana, cucumber, and chilli. “Artificial drains made for saline water are not taking flood water. In some places these drains are seen overflowing, further threatening crops,” he said.

The chilli in coastal areas has its different season compared to main chilli zones like Kunri.

Haroon Memon, a chilli grower of Kunri, Umerkot district said the farmers were preparing to start harvesting of early sown chilli expected to start on September 15, 2020.

The crop standing on hundreds of acres in the area has come under rainwater.

“There is no exact data of crop damages, because neither concerned government departments nor growers’ bodies have the capacity to assess the situation,” Memon said adding however the losses were likely to be huge in chilli and cotton crops in these areas, where entire farmland was under water.

Noor Hussain Khoso, another farmer from Badin, said cotton and chilli were sensitive crops, which have come under water and might be lost within a few days in case water did not recede.

“Mostly there is no drainage system in any agriculture area to save the crops. Some influential landlords have arranged dewatering machines to save their crops, but many other farmers, who are unable to drain the water out of fields, fear big losses,” Khoso said.

Some farmers said it was too late to rent dewatering machines because the new rain spell was due within a few days, as reported by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Manzoor Kalhoro, who manages four nurseries of valuable fruit, ornamental plants and forest species in Deh Narejani, Hyderabad city suburbs, said the devastation rained on them.

“It is not only Hyderabad, there are reports from Mirpurkhas where nurseries have come under water,” he added.

A large number of people are in the plant nursery business. They are using pumping machines to drain rainwater to save the saplings, but at the same time are bracing for losses. There are several sensitive plants which cannot survive in stagnant water for many days.

Muhammad Siddiq of Mithi, Tharparkar called the rain a boon for the desert areas, where farmers and herder families seem happy, believing rain might benefit the early sown crops and green pastures.

There are reports that breaches in irrigation tributaries have also caused flooding of crops.

Similarly, breaches in the artificial drains, which are supposed to feed main Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) have also caused serious damages to agricultural lands as they have not only hit the standing crops but also the fertility of the soil.

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t have an effective mechanism to alert the farmers at the village level in the sensitive areas so they could take precautionary measures to avoid losses in case of heavy rains. The government’s online mechanism was too complicated for many farmers to access and learn about precautionary measures.

There is a common demand of growers to conduct the assessment of damages in agriculture and arrange compensation to them. It is because hundreds of people that depend on agriculture for livelihood are facing a complete wipeout.

Among coastal communities, even the fishing folk are reluctant leave jetties as the seas have also become rough after heavy rains.