Water Scarcity has Hit Farmers in India’s Cauvery Delta

Deeper wells being dug by farmers to fight the unending drought

Rice farmer, Dakshinamoorthy, who used to grow crops over three acres of fields in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has to dig deeper and deeper for his tub-well to tap into the groundwater in the soil. According to him, the underground water table has dropped below 300 feet, which is nearly double a few years ago.

The water situation in the Cauvery delta region is challenging the area’s economic base which revolves around rice crop.


Cauvery Delta feeling the heat of changing Monsoon patterns

As western Rajasthan and the state of Gujarat are experiencing heavy rains and floods in July, inhabitants of Cauvery delta are wishing and praying for a Monsoon with enough rainfall to get sufficient water for their crops.

However, rain patterns in June and July were not very reassuring because the state of Tamil Nadu has received 31% less rain than normal. People are fearful that the drought will extend if the same situation persists in the coming days.

Like Dakshinamoorthy, 85% of the farmers of the state own less than 2 hectares of land. In the previous year, due to the shortage of water, crops of many farmers failed to grow optimally. Cattle-keeping is another important source for farmers to make their ends meet. But with the shortage of even drinking water for humans, keeping cattle has become an uphill battle.

Due to the piling up of issues, Dakshinamoorthy and many others like him are contemplating moving out of the state. Many have already migrated.


Water Crisis: Driving farmers over the edge

From November 2016 to May 2017, more than 200 farmers have either died of sudden heart attack or ended their lives. Every death has a distressing story behind it.

For instance, there is a village named Anaikudy along the river Kollidam that has become devoid of water.

There, a small-time farmer committed suicide due to his mounting debts. His attempts to dig well ended in futility and pushed him to end his life.


Anthropogenic and climatic factors have hit the Cauvery River badly

S Ranganathan, a farmer and general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers says, “The crisis goes beyond the drought. The backbone of delta prosperity is under threat, and it’s scary.”

The cauvery River supplies water to five main tributaries and hundreds of canals and channels and many of them have run dry because of water scarcity. V Deivasihamani, a retired irrigation engineer with 40 years of experience working in the delta region thinks that climate and anthropogenic factors have led to this situation.

According to the study conducted by Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), 20% of farming land in the Cauvery delta has become uncultivable in 40 years due to climate changes and anthropogenic reasons.

A recent example of climate change adversity can be seen in the previous year when farmers of Tamil Nadu couldn’t even grow one crop because of the rain shortfall of more than 60% that year. 3.5 million hectares of land suffered from the resulting draught.

US to Submit Withdrawal Notice from Paris Climate Accord in the UN

However, the US will remain engaged in hoping to get more favorable terms from the climate deal

There are various reports that the Trump administration will formally submit a notice to the UN that the US is going to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. The letter to the UN will be the first development after Trump’s announcement in June that he wants to withdraw and renegotiate the participation terms of the US in the deal.

Sources from the State Department told E&E News that internal briefings had begun to inform employees in the department that the US was going to tell the UN that it will remain engaged in the provisions of the Paris accord till their official departure from the Arocess in 2020. They will also tell the UN that they are open to review the decision if conditions (still unspecified) are met by the UN. However, intentions of leaving the deal have been made very clear in the body of letter.

The Paris Climate Accord doesn’t permit signatories to submit any formal request to leave until three years after the deal was struck. Even after the completion of this time period, it requires a one-year-notice for complete withdrawal from the pact.

The total time for full withdrawal makes an interesting scenario in the US: the country can’t fully withdraw from the accord until one day after the next US elections will be held on 4 November, 2020. It means any formal or informal communication with the UN right now regarding the Paris Climate Accord will not hold any legal weight.


US wants ‘favorable’ renegotiations

As reported by The New York Times, a letter from the White House to the UN states, “As the President indicated in his June 1 announcement and subsequently, he is open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the US can identify terms that are more favorable to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayers.”

The letter also confirms that the State Department will continue to be part of climate talks going to take place in Bonn in the coming November. This continuation highlights the fact that the US wants to ensure the availability of all future options regarding the climate policy in order to protect its interests.

The CEO of World Resource Institute, Andrew Steer, is of the thought that the US intentions to remain involved in the process might be taken with positivity and openness from the UN.

Steer thinks that the US should have a constructive attitude in these engagements. Issues such as transparency should be put forward by the US to show its seriousness. Otherwise, pretending to be an outsider that is going to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord will not help the US when it comes to voicing opinions.

Both the State Department and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are not available for comments on this ongoing development.