Agriculture World

Why Monsoon Brings Misery for Farmers in Haryana?

KJ Staff
KJ Staff
rain

A marginal farmer from Sampal village in Haryana’s Rohtak district said that “Monsoon always brings misery”. The complaint appears to be quite conflicting given the insatiable need for irrigation and importance of groundwater depletion in Haryana.

In Haryana, salinity has dabbled so deeply with economic sustainability in the southern and western districts of Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sirsa, Jind, Bhiwani, Sonepat, Fatehabad and Mewatthat. Farmers in these districts call themselves the “poor cousins” of those in other districts where the quality of soil and water is better. 

This problem has impacted the productivity and affected more than 3.2 lakh hectares, or around 10% of the total cultivated area in Haryana. The districts Fazilka, Abohar and Muktsar of Punjab are also getting affected by high salt content in the groundwater. The groundwater is salty in these areas and when it rains, the groundwater level comes up which bringing more salt to the surface. 

Hari Ram who plants paddy and wheat on his four acre field in Sonipat said that “Rainwater surfaces more salt each year.” He added more by saying “Wheat production is 30-50% less than other districts with fertile soil, and we cannot imagine a third crop like vegetable in this soil”.

Salinity Taking Over 

According to experts, apart from imprudent surface water irrigation, the topography in Haryana which is cup-shaped has made it prone to salinity. In 20 years in Haryana, the saline area has grown by 35% to 80,000 hectares.   

CSSRI director PC Sharma said that “The increase in area in Haryana is caused by the movement of subsurface saline water due to a vacuum created by pumping of sweet groundwater in adjoining areas”. He added that out of 6.73 million hectares nationally affected by alkaline and salty soils, as much as 2.14 million hectares have so far been reclaimed. 

Mostly, salts of chlorides and sulphates of sodium, calcium and magnesium have caused exhaustion of oxygen and increase of carbon dioxide in the root zone of crops, Sharma added. This causes the decrease of plant nutrients and useful microorganisms at the expense of the growth of harmful ones. 

At present, Salinity has affected fewer farmers in Punjab it is increasing in some pockets. This is causing farmers to spend more money on agricultural inputs, even as their farm output is falling. 

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An agricultural officer in Muktsar said that “We recommend 25% higher dosage of urea as saline soil restricts absorption of nutrients by crops”. The officer added that as much as 25% of the cultivated land in the district is affected by salinity. In most villages in the central and south-western districts in Haryana, Canal water is used for irrigation, as groundwater has become too saline for growing crops. Salinity has increased in canal feed areas too, as irrigation has raised the groundwater level and surfaced saline water. 

Slow Pace of Reclamation

CSSRI’s Sharma said that Out of the 2.96 million hectares affected by salinity in the country, around 15% is in Haryana. But due to a long drawn process, narrow time window and lack of machinery, less than 70,000 hectares of saline land has been reclaimed nationally so far. In the last 20 years, around 10,500 hectares has been reclaimed in Haryana. 

He added that “It will take 50 years to reclaim the saline soils completely at the current pace. Nationally, there are 6.73 million hectares with saline and alkaline soils that require reclamation".

Reclamation through bio-drainage by plating eucalyptus has been obtained in low-lying areas in some blocks. A variety of wheat, paddy and mustard that are resistant to saline water and soil have been developed by CSSRI to deal with falling agricultural output.

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