Dry spell hits 4,000 hectares of irrigated ricelands in Bicol - NIA


LEGAZPI CITY - The dry spell has started taking its toll on some 4,000 hectares of irrigated ricelands in Bicol, prompting the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to employ contingency measures to address the problem, a NIA official said Friday.

Ed Yu, NIA spokesman, said his office has received reports that the El Nino phenomenon has dried up 4,000 hectares of ricelands being served by the NIA across the region. In a phone interview, Yu said that for the first cropping season of this year, farmers complained of either low production or total crop failure due to water shortage brought by the dry spell. “Less than half of the 4,000 hectares suffered total crop failure while others were harvested with low yields due to water shortage," the NIA official said. According to Yu, the agency will adopt two measures to mitigate the effects of the dry spell.

These include the rotation method or water distribution and massive rehabilitation and repairs of irrigation facilities and structures for better and efficient delivery of water to farms. Under the rotation system, the NIA will schedule the delivery of water to programmed areas by serving notice that the agency will supply water in four days to downstream areas (far from the dam) and three days to all upstream (near the dam) areas, he said.

This method would guarantee that all areas programmed by NIA for the particular cropping season are served with irrigation water supply, Yu claimed. Areas outside or not included in the NIA’s programmed system will be informed that the agency cannot supply them with water because of the shortage. Yu said that as for the long-term mitigating measure, the agency has since 2010 initiated rehabilitation and repair of irrigation facilities and structures every year.

Funding for the dry spell mitigating measures will come from the P35.2 million 2015 NIA budget. The current budget was earmarked to implement 212 projects, of which 172 are communal irrigation systems and 40 are national irrigation systems. The projects would irrigate 378 hectares of new areas, restore irrigation service to 1,350 hectares and rehabilitate facilities and structures in 2,191 hectares of ricelands region-wide.

NIA Bicol funding going down

Yu, however, lamented that NIA Bicol funding continues to decrease every budget year, citing that in 2013 it received P1.2 billion then down to P700 million in 2014 and this year only P535.2 million. In Albay, Gov. Joey Salceda has directed the Provincial Agricultural Service (PAS) to validate reports of drying up of farm lands in the towns of Daraga, following reports that 100 hectares of rice land had dried up in the town of Daraga due to the dry spell.

Salceda ordered the PAS to conduct a thorough inventory of farm lands to be affected by the dry spell in the 15 towns and three cities of the province.