No threat to food security: Punjab agriculture officials

Chandigarh, July 15 (IANS) Agriculture officials in Punjab say there will be no threat to the country’s food security despite the loss of crops worth lakhs of rupees in the recent floods as additional seeds have been provided to all affected farmers for re-sowing the crop.

A senior official of agriculture department, who did not want to be named, told IANS: ‘We are not expecting much decline in the paddy production because of damage incurred due to floods. A loss of paddy on one lakh acres means drop of only one percent crop.’

‘Moreover paddy will be sown again on over 50 percent of the damaged area. Nearly 50 lakh seeds have already been distributed free of cost to the affected farmers. There is no threat to the food security,’ he added.

Balwinder Singh Sidhu, director in the state agriculture department, told IANS that ‘girdawari’ (agriculture loss assessment) is going on in all the flood-affected districts of Punjab.

‘The process will be completed by this evening and we will be in a position of commenting on actual loss of crops by tomorrow (Friday),’ he said.

‘Right now we assume that crops on approximately 294,397 acres land have been destroyed but we expect this figure to substantially come down after the girdawari process is completed.’

Paddy and various other crops were damaged in Patiala, Sangrur, Mohali, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Moga and Mansa districts of Punjab in the floods during the last few days.

Sidhu said that a central government team is expected to visit Punjab Friday to assess the loss of crops.

Besides, due to good rainfall in this region in the past few days, the water level in both Bhakra and Pong dams has risen, rekindling hope of availability of more water for agriculture.

Water level in Bhakra dam was recorded at 1,558.06 feet Wednesday, which was 19.12 feet above the level the same day last year. The water level in the Pong dam was 18.79 feet above the last year’s level Wednesday.

‘The water levels in both Bhakra and Pong dams have reached a very good level as compared to 2009. Our target is to take the level at 1,680 feet at Bhakra and at 1,390 feet in Pong by Sep 20,’ V.P. Sharma, joint director (public relations) of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), told IANS.

‘It’s true that authorities have more water for irrigation and power production, but BBMB cannot interfere into it as our job is to just manage the water level. However it is good news for Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, which would be benefited through it,’ he added.

With scanty rainfall during the last monsoon, water levels at both dams were quite low in April this year, forcing BBMB authorities to restrict the outflow of water and thereby leading to a scarcity of water and power.

In the beginning of April 2010, water level at Bhakra dam was at 1,516 feet, 42 feet lower than the same day last year. The Pong dam recorded a water level of 1,297 feet, 23 feet lower than last year.

The 225-metre high Bhakra Dam is located nearly 20 km from Nangal town in Punjab. The Pong dam on river Sutlej is in Himachal Pradesh along its border with Punjab.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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