Cauvery Delta Region Shrinks

Recent study concluded that the Cauvery delta region has shrunk and the cultivable lands are increasingly deteriorating into waste lands.

  • The researchers have tracked land use and changes to land cover to show that the delta region has shrunk by 20%.
  • It is due to anthropogenic factors such as diversion of land for non-agricultural purposes, as well as factors linked to climate change.
  • The drastic reduction in crop cover and a 13-fold increase in wastelands between 1971 and 2014 indicate a worrisome phenomenon.
  • The study also reported the increase in mangrove cover (14 times since 1971) in the region as sea water ingress (entering) has grown in the coastal areas.
  • This means more and more cultivable agricultural land is coming under sea water and the soil is turning saline.
  • Due to sea water ingress, there has been a substantial rise in shrimp farming along the coast, which is detrimental to agricultural practice.
  • With 72% of the low-lying land in the State falling under the delta region along the coast, the land is at greater risk of submergence as a result of rising sea levels.
  • The Cauvery delta has witnessed a decline of 80% in sediment deposit over the last century.

Major Concerns

  • A noticeable consequence of climate change has been the cycle of drought and flood that coastal areas have been enduring.
  • The rain occurs within a span of a few days, resulting in heavy flooding.
  • The fields get flooded and the crops are destroyed.
  • On the other hand, there is the prevalence of droughts.
  • All these factors have resulted in a drastic reduction in land under crop cover.
  • Also, the delta region has clay soil, of which 52% is cracking clay, which is very vulnerable if it doesn’t receive continuous irrigation.
  • The study also points to the decline of dairy as a secondary occupation, with the cattle population registering a steep decline.
  • With the Cauvery delta region accounting for 30% of the food grain production in the State, it is imperative that the crisis needs to be solved sooner than later.

Government Interventions

  • The Tamil Nadu State Climate Action Plan, drafted in 2014, anticipates many of the challenges that the report has raised, and envisages a slew of measures to make agriculture sustainable.
  • Promotion of drought- and flood-tolerant varieties of paddy, micro-irrigation to promote efficient use of water and use of bio-fertilizers to improve soil health are among the proposals.
  • However, there is no clarity on the extent to which these proposals have been incorporated in government interventions.
  • Several schemes have been announced by the State for the farmers’ welfare, it remains unclear as to who is benefitting from them.
  • The state has placed greater focus on promoting efficient use of water in agriculture through the expansion of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
  • However, wasteland reclamation work is currently concentrated in the dry regions of Tamil Nadu and not in the Cauvery delta regions.
  • The State government’s 2017-18 policy note on agriculture admits that agricultural production has been severely affected due to natural factors such as cyclones and drought.
  • Again, it lacks clarity on the specific resources that would be dedicated to developing such ‘climate-smart’ practices.
  • A collective farming scheme was proposed, which aims to promote farmer-producer groups with a corpus fund of Rs 5 lakh per group.
  • This will help reduce the vulnerability of small and marginal farmers to natural hazards as it allows them to pool their resources and scale up farm production
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