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Updated: August 4, 2012 04:56 IST

Natural disaster monitoring centre data points to extensive drought in Karnataka

Karnataka Bureau
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KSNDMC’s data shows deficient rainfall in 603 of 747 hoblis in State

If the rainfall data for Karnataka issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) officially confirmed that the State is indeed reeling under a drought, a denser data set compiled by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) paints an even grimmer picture.

The data generated by the KSNDMC, which were marshalled by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar at his meeting with Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar on Friday, showed that 603 of the 747 hoblis in the State had deficient rainfall between June 1 and July 31 (a hobli corresponds to about 4 to 5 gram panchayats, covering an average area of about 200 sq. km). The combined storage level in the State’s 10 major reservoirs was down to just about one-third their gross storage capacity at the end of July.

The net result of the severe drought, described by Mr. Shettar as the worst since 1971, is that only 30 per cent of the targeted cereal acreage has been planted till date; in the case of pulses, less than half has been sown. Only one-third of the targeted acreage for oilseeds, and less than one-third of the area planned for commercial crops such as sugarcane and tobacco have been planted.

Difference in readings

Speaking to The Hindu, V.S. Prakash, Director, KSNDMC, said, “Even in the areas that have been sown, nearly half the crops have been lost.” Yes, the data of the IMD does not match with our estimates,” says V.S. Prakash, Director, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC).” He explained that while the IMD’s data is based on readings from about 350 rain gauges in the State, the KSNDMC’s data is sourced from a much larger sample of 2,000 gauges spread across the State.

Moreover, while the IMD’s data from the individual gauges is compiled using the simple average of the readings, the KSNDMC uses a weighted average. The simple average can be misleading, said Mr. Prakash. The average rainfall in Gadag district during the current season was boosted by a cloudburst in one taluk, while four of the other taluks in the district suffered a deficit of more than 50 per cent. Although the average deficit was 49 per cent, it hides the variations within the district. Moreover, because the KSNDMC’s array of gauges is aimed at gathering hobli-level rainfall, the data can be used in a meaningful manner at the ground level, he said.

Setbacks

“Every drought,” said Mr. Prakash, “has its own specific signature.” The current episode was preceded by a series of setbacks since September 2011, which resulted in moisture deficiency in the soil.

However, even in these grim times, the KSNDMC’s work offers a silver lining. Mr. Prakash said the institution, armed with the data at its command, asked farmers in May-June not to resort to dry sowing, a practice that they adopt in dry weather conditions hoping that it may rain.

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