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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Monsoon Now Deficient, Officially Overall deficit more than 10%; over 20% area affected

The ever-optimistic weather office has finally declared that this year's monsoon season is expected to be deficient and rainfall in August and September will be below normal, heightening concerns of lower food production and power generation as well as drinking water scarcity. 

Apart from the damage to crops in the current season from the drought-like situation, the country would feel the pinch of the failed monsoon during the rest of the year too. This is because the soil would be too dry for optimal growth of winter-sown crops and reservoirs do not have enough water to meet the full demand of irrigation and drinking water after the monsoon season. Latest data from the Central Water Commission shows the main reservoirs are filled only to 30% of capacity, which is barely two-thirds of last year's level. With rainfall forecast to be weak in the rest of the June-September season, hydropower generation would suffer, and the shortfall of electricity may tempt northern states to overdraw power and put pressure on the fragile electricity grid that collapsed twice in 36 hours this week. ET was the first to report, on July 3, that the country was on the brink of a severe shortage of drinking water, lower power generation and loss of crops due to weak monsoon rains. 
So far, rainfall is 19% below normal but the deficit in some western and northern regions varies from 30% to 70%. The government has not declared 2012 a drought year. 
Rain Deficiency More Widespread than 2009 
The weather office defines a drought year as the one in which the overall deficit is more than 10% and over 20% of the area is affected by drought conditions. In June and July, rainfall was below normal in 66% of the country's area. 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said total rainfall in August and September would be 9% below average, with an error margin of 8%, while total seasonal rainfall would be more than 10% in deficit. 
The rain deficiency this year is more widespread than in 2009, when the worst drought in nearly four decades affected around 250 of India's 627 districts. This year 306 districts have received deficient 
The IMD says the El Nino weather phenomenon would hurt the monsoon. "The latest forecasts from a majority of the dynamical and statistical models indicate strong possibility (with a probability of about 65%) for weak-to-moderate El Nino conditions to emerge during the next two months. Therefore, the El Nino conditions are likely to have adverse impact on the rainfall over the country during the second half of the monsoon season," it said. 
The IMD, in its first monsoon bulletin, had predicted that rainfall would be 99% of average. Later, after erratic rains in June, it downgraded the forecast to 96% of average. 
"The actual rainfall for this season till 
July 31 has been 81% of the average with north-west India receiving the least rains at 64% of the average followed by the southern peninsula at 77%," the IMD said. 
The uneven distribution of rains has adversely impacted summer crops, reducing the total area by 10% to 66.82 million hectares, compared to a year ago. 
The number of rain-deficient districts this year is more than in 2009, according to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. "The biggest impact will be on oilseeds, pulses, cotton and coarse cereals as major growing states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat are facing severe rainfall deficiency. The government should start import of edible oil and pulses to ensure availability. 
It's a grim situation now," said Ashok Gulati, chairman, Commission of Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP). 
According to the agriculture ministry's latest data, sown area of rice is down 8.71% at 19.1 million hectares last week, against 20.93 million hectares in the same period last season. The government has already rolled out a relief package for poor rainfall-affected states, which includes subsidised diesel for irrigation, funds to ensure drinking water, seed subsidy for re-sowing crops and augmentation of fodder supply. 
The government has also asked the water resources ministry to allow dairy societies and federations to sow fodder crops on the lands of empty reservoirs. "A few reservoirs have no water. The land 
of these reservoirs is fertile with high moisture content. They should be used for raising fodder," said Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna.


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