Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Palamau district in Jharkhand State of India faces famine from ancient periods?

Why Palamau district in Jharkhand State of India faces famine from ancient periods?
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Palamau district in Jharkhand State of India is reeling under drought. Crops have been destroyed and the region is facing a famine-like situation. In spite of heavy rains in its surrounding districts this year, Palamau district is devoid of sufficient rain. It has not only affected the crops but also depleted the ground water and well water forcing people to drink contaminated water.
Palamau is a district of Jharkhand state, India. The district lies between 23°50′ and 24°8′ north latitude and between 83°55′ and 84°30′ east longitude. It is bordered on the north by river Son and Bihar, on the east by districts of Chatra and Hazaribagh , on the south by Latehar District and on the west by Garhwa District.
The district covers an area of 5043 square kilometers and has a population of 1,533,176.
Daltonganj, situated on North Koel river in the district headquarters. The town is named after Colonel Dalton, Commissioner of Chhota Nagpur in 1861.
The district has been a chronic sufferer from famine, drought, and scarcity conditions from the ancient times. Floods are not a problem as the rivers are mostly hilly excepting Son which is a perennial river and occasionally creates havoc in certain pockets. Cyclones of major intensity are not known.

The Indian Irrigation Commission described Palamau as the driest and probably the poorest district of the province. The frequent draughts and famines or scarcity conditions that have visited this district within the last century support this observation. The district falls within the retreating range of the south-west monsoon and as such rainfall is wholly dependent upon local conditions and local winds which are seldom favourable to the district. Also due to the beautiful Netharhat hill ranges the area comes under rain shadow zone. Rain clouds moving towards Palamau district are trapped within this hills resulting scanty rainfall in the area.

Rain shadow is warm and dry because as moist air masses coming from the Chotanagpur plateau rise to the top of Netharhat hills the air cools and it's temperature decreases until it reaches it's dew point, the point at which the condenses as rain, and then falls either on the windward side or atop the hills. These results in heavy rainfall in the Netharhat area. This is called orographic lifting precipitation. The effect of this phenomenon is the creation of an arid region on the leeward side of hills. Also, the warm air absorbs moisture from the already dry and warm air . The land gets little precipitation because all the moisture is lost on the Netharhat hills. Furthermore, the warm air absorbs moisture from the already dry land.

Within the period of last century there have been famines in 1859-60, 1873-74, 1896-97, 1899-1900 and 1918-19 and there have been several years of scarcity up to 1956 and the worst of all was perhaps that of the year 1955.

The rainfall in Palamau is not only scanty but very capricious in its distribution. There are, it is true, a large number of rivers and streams in the district, but in most of them the supply of water diminishes rapidly or fails entirely soon after the end of the scanty rains.

From old records and reports it will appear that that in 1868 there was a failure of different crops and winter rice due to absence of rain and this caused a famine in 1869. the most affected areas were the north-east and north-west of the district and to a small extent the central areas. In 1873-74, there was again a failure of different local crops and there was a general famine affecting Japla and Belaunja in the north, Deogan and Untari in the extreme north-east and north-west. In 1896 there was again an unfavourable distribution of rain which led to the famine of 1897.
The southern part of this district which overgrown with thick forests and jungles gets more rainfall than the northern part which is almost a plain land bordering district of Gaya. Distribution of rain seems to have been more disturbed from the last five decades. One of the reasons may be the indiscriminate exploitation of forest.

The only solutions to fight such condition is to grow more forest and interlink the rivers through canals.

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