Water shortage puts Kelantan rice crop at risk

KOTA BARU, Malaysia -  The padi planting season in five districts covering almost 30,000ha in Kelantan is at risk of being aborted as there is a severe lack of water to irrigate the farms.

Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority (Kada) chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the main water source from Sungai Kelantan could not be adequately pumped into irrigation canals as its level had dipped to very low levels.

"At stake is rice production for the country and income for more than 9,000 of our farmers. This is an emergency situation," he told reporters during his visit to the Kemubu main water pump house near here.

Annuar said there was a need for the Federal Government to intervene and help the farming community by investing in a better irrigation system which was sustainable in the long run.

He said the existing system was not reliable as water pump stations could not draw much water from Sungai Kelantan, which had receded drastically, especially during drought.

"We are not experiencing a drought now but Sungai Kelantan is so shallow that it is hardly possible to get water into the retention pond at our pump stations."

He proposed a "barrage system", where river water could be retained in a reservoir to ensure that irrigation could run uninterrupted during the padi season.

"It may cost about RM150 million but the investment will protect our food security in the long run as padi farming can run on schedule.

"Now, the affected farmers simply accuse us of not pumping water into their padi fields. They are unaware of the actual situation."

Annuar said the investment would not only save millions of ringgit annually in stop-gap measures, but also improve padi production.

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