Ban on sugarcane, paddy cultivation likely till 2018 in Cauvery basin; ryots unhappy

Times of India – 12 September 2017, BENGALURU: The ban on cultivating waterintensive crops of paddy and sugarcane is all set to continue into the 2018-19 fiscal, despite opposition from Cauvery basin farmers and now-favourable water levels in four dams across the region.

While the agriculture department toes the official line of the situation being fluid and opening up the Cauvery reservoir gates for water-intensive crops will create uncertainty in the near future, sources in the department said the basin has gone beyond the permissible limits of cultivating sugarcane and paddy. It would create water shortage and possibly heighten the Cauvery water dispute with Tamil Nadu.

According to data provided by the agriculture department, the Cauvery water dispute tribunal has permitted Karnataka to irrigate 18.85 lakh acres for both kharif and rabi seasons in any given year, with an estimated water requirement of 250.62tmcft.

However, statistics suggest that in violation of these permissible limits, during a rather normal year like 2015-16, the basin has seen nearly 28.41lakh acres being cultivated for paddy and sugarcane alone. This year, despite Karnataka on the verge of being declared a drought year and the ban in place for sugarcane crops, the total acreage already under cultivation is 32,941 acres as on September 6. For paddy , the acreage as on July 31 was 8.7 lakh acres.

Agriculture minister Krishna Byregowda said that the government will not encourage cultivation of the two water-intensive crops of paddy and sugarcane.

“We cannot afford to release water despite the healthy levels of our reservoirs, for paddy and sugarcane. With the situation very uncertain and the time to cultivate paddy well past its deadline, it is difficult to meet the expectations of farmers in the basin,” he said.

Mandya-based farmer leader C Kumari told TOI there have been several petitions to the deputy commissioner for relaxing the ban on growing paddy and sugarcane. “Without giving us an alternative crop to grow, such an unscientific move of banning paddy and sugarcane is not acceptable,” she said.