With the monsoon playing truant and unusual rise in day temperature, the threat of drought is looming large over eight south Bengal districts, which have recorded 31 per cent deficient rainfall till the first week of this month.
The state government will wait and watch till August 15 before declaring the affected areas, state Agriculture Minister Naren De said in Kolkata.
"The situation is serious and the deficient rainfall has put a question mark on paddy and agricultural production. Generally, 50 per cent deficient rainfall causes a near-drought condition and we are concerned at the situation," he said.
"Paddy cultivation will suffer badly," the minister said.
Already near-drought conditions were prevailing in Purulia, Bankura, Howrah, Hooghly and Birbhum districts, he said.
Purulia, an arid district, particularly was badly hit with very poor rainfall recorded, he said.
To overcome the situation, he said the government was considering alternative crops, like maize, dal and oilseed, which require less water.
Meteorologists said that to overcome the situation, 120 mm of daily rainfall was urgently required in the affected districts, including those in north Bengal, to save crops.
"We fear a near-drought condition may prevail if the monsoon behaves in this manner for seven more days," they said.
Both the sub-Himalayan region and the Gangetic belt were experiencing a severe heat spell with the mercury hovering between 36 and 38 degrees celsius.
Regional Meteorological Centre sources said that the erratic behaviour of the monsoon was of concern and there was no sign of low pressure in satellite imagery.
"There is no hope of heavy shower, which is badly required now, at least in next one or two days as no formation of any low pressure is in sight," they said.
According to records, monsoon rainfall in the state during 2005-06 was normal and a high 61 and 40 per cent in the next two years, but dropped to 31 per cent till August one this year.