Monsoon’s here: on the need to make the most of a good rainfall

The arrival of the monsoon along India’s shores on May 30, with a meteorological forecast for rainfall that would almost match the normal average of 89 cm, is cause for cheer. It appears that the official forecaster, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), is less apprehensive now about the negative impact of a late-onset El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, since it expects a favourable swing in Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures to act as a counter. This year’s summer monsoon rainfall will be studied closely for more than one reason. The IMD is using an improved dynamic forecasting model that relies on high-grade computing after several years of off-the-mark predictions, and its accuracy will be tested. In the area of agricultural productivity, a second consecutive year of normal rainfall will improve the prospects of higher output from the 60% of farmland that is without irrigation facility. Combined with the benefit of low oil prices, and thus low inflation, this could spur rural prosperity. Giving rural residents a better deal is imperative. Even with ongoing urbanisation, there is a need to improve the socio-economic infrastructure in villages, starting with health, education and housing. It is also important to relieve a significant section of rural residents from debt. The All-India Debt and Investment Survey, conducted by the National Sample Survey Office in the 70th round during January-December 2013, showed that 31.44% of rural households were in debt.

There will also be variations. Indications are that Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Goa and parts of Tamil Nadu may get less than average rainfall this year, while Kerala, Karnataka and the Western Ghats region could get more than the normal. Preparing for rainfall variations between years and among geographic regions should be a policy goal, but this has not received the needed attention. The long-term neglect is reflected in the lack of irrigation facility for more than half of all productive land. A good year is a time to prepare for the future, and if 2017 concludes with a bountiful monsoon and harvest as expected, the Centre and the States should focus on creating the infrastructure that will build resilience against droughts. State governments need to prepare cities and towns for the monsoon on a continuous basis. Clearing of urban waterways and creation of new reservoirs are absolute necessities, since flooding has assumed crippling proportions on the one hand, while municipal supply of drinking water is unable to meet new demand from expansion of housing. Unchecked pollution is making a lot of naturally harvested water unproductive, with poor management of solid waste in cities turning lakes into cesspools. A good monsoon is described by economists as a four-month-long swing factor for the national economy, more so because it generates millions of direct farm jobs. That should make it a central policy concern, with efforts made to tap every drop.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 11:55:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/monsoons-here-on-the-need-to-make-the-most-of-a-good-rainfall/article18661652.ece

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