Welcome clouds: an optimistic monsoon forecast

The most recent assessment put out by the India Meteorological Department, that the southwest monsoon will be “normal” after a short break, comes as a relief. At the end of two months the total rainfall has met the criteria for ‘normality,’ although there are wide variations in the patterns of showers, leaving some districts hit by drought as others face floods. Official data show that the realisation of 384.7 mm of rain as of July 25 is only a 3% negative departure from the Long Period Average. Yet, within this phase of the monsoon, some districts of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana and Vidarbha experienced deficits ranging from 20% to 59%. In the case of Gujarat, it has been a story of both deficiency and heavy rainfall within the State. As with many previous monsoons, this rainy season has so far witnessed a lot of death and destruction: at least 465 people have died this year. Roads and infrastructure have been destroyed, and it will take massive investments to rebuild them. Thousands of people have had to shift to relief camps as floods have ruined their houses. Such displaced families urgently need relief to resume normal life. The rainfall patterns, with their spatial variations, have major implications for agriculture and groundwater recharge as well.

Water is the key determinant of India’s agricultural output and the National Commission on Farmers chaired by the scientist, Professor M.S. Swaminathan, had several recommendations for its optimal use. Given that 60% of the 192 million hectares of gross sown area assessed by the Commission was found to be rainfed, an accelerated programme to harness the monsoon is vital. State programmes must take all measures to expand surface water storage, launch more minor irrigation schemes, and improve the recharge of groundwater. Altered rainfall trends in terms of intensity and variations across regions pose a new challenge. Scientists contend that the alluvial soil of the northern States benefit more from slow precipitation, while the hard-rock geography of the south needs heavy showers for groundwater recharge. Yet, many districts have been receiving short, heavy spells and not steady rain. A future-ready approach should therefore focus on augmented storage and greater participation of the farming community in managing the vital resource. The IMD has issued a “normal” outlook for August, which is encouraging, and there are signs of fresh monsoon activity in Odisha, south Chhattisgarh, north coastal Andhra Pradesh and parts of Telangana. If the forecast is accurate, and the trend of favourable climate conditions in the Indian Ocean continue, a further normal course of the season through September can be expected.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 8:25:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/welcome-clouds-an-optimistic-monsoon-forecast/article24636341.ece

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