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Delayed monsoon may spell trouble

Experts contend that the by the middle of June, the monsoon should have covered areas till north-central India. However, media reports indicate that the monsoon has not even made its way to central India. 

Nearly two-thirds of India’s farms are irrigated only by rain. Even though the farm sector accounts for about 15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), approximately half of India’s population directly depends on agriculture. 

Two consecutive years of deficient rainfall and severe drought has resulted in acute rural distress in more than 250 districts across 11 states. Besides a deficient monsoon and drought, changing rainfall pattern due to climate change has added to the crisis. In its recent study, industry lobby group, ASSOCHAM, said that the drought may have cost the country approximately Rs 6.5 trillion. 

In a recent column, Akshay Deoras, an independent weather forecaster, has listed the impact of the current delay in the arrival of monsoon: “Delayed monsoon, coupled with low water levels, has started impacting the Kharif sowing season in states like Maharashtra. Although the sowing window will be open for some more days, for farmers, proper sowing is becoming like a race against the time. Farmers in several regions of Maharashtra have already started sowing.

 This was mainly because of pre-monsoon showers and misleading news regarding the arrival of monsoon. As the soil moisture is still not sufficient, these farmers have landed in trouble. The sown seeds have either been damaged or they are on the verge of being damaged. The farmers will have to go for sowing again, particularly in the non-irrigated areas. 

To forestall further losses, the IMD and Chief Minister of Maharashtra have asked the farmers to delay sowing until the onset of monsoon.”The above average monsoon predicted for this season was supposed to bring succor to the farm sector and replenish reservoirs and mitigate the acute water shortage prevalent in vast swathes of the country.

 At present, Maharashtra is currently left with only nine percent stock in its reservoirs across the state with severe water crises afflicting 12,928 big and small villages where 6,140 tankers are now providing drinking water, according to the Indo-Asian News Service. The dry Marathwada region is the worst affected with only one percent water stocks remaining, compared to five per cent on June 16 last year. Meanwhile, the water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on June 16, 2016, was 23.786 BCM which is 15 percent of total storage capacity of these reservoirs, according to the Central Water Commission. 

The total storage capacity of these 91 reservoirs is 157.799 BCM which is about 62 percent of the total storage capacity of 253.388 BCM which is estimated to have been created in the country. What’s worse, according to the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), India’s water tables are dropping at the rate of 0.3 meters a year.

 Government agencies estimate that approximately 80 percent of India’s surface water is contaminated and most of it comes from untreated sewage that our cities release. Food production in India is also heavily dependent on a healthy monsoon. More than 40 percent of its food production depends on adequate and timely showers.

 The southwest monsoon that ends in September accounts for 80 percent of the annual rainfall. A good harvest in autumn thus strengthens rural consumption, providing a boost to the overall economy. But that again depends on not only the volume of rain but also the timing.
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