|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Why the numbers don't tell the tale
Surinder Sud in New Delhi | July 20, 2004 08:41 IST
Technically, the south-west monsoon has covered the entire country, having advanced into the remaining parts of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan on July 18.
From the meteorological point of view, the timing is normal. The cumulative seasonal rainfall in the entire country so far, too, is only 10 per cent below normal -- a figure not so alarming. But the ground reality is different.
The woefully aberrant distribution of rainfall in terms of both timing and space has caused heavy floods in the east and left vast north-western, central and peninsular tracts parched.
Is the drought situation as bad as in 2002? The answer is partly yes and partly no. The main similarity is that the monsoon has failed largely in July, which is the most crucial period for crop sowing. But, fortunately, the total area affected is not as large as in 2002 and the aridity, too, is not as severe as it was then.
Occasional scattered showers have been occurring in many of the rain-deficient areas this season, providing life-saving moisture to standing crops and keeping the hopes of fresh crop planting alive so far. However, the farmers would have to go in for alternative, early maturing and less water requiring crops.
According to the rainfall data till July 14, only 16 of the total 36 meteorological subdivisions fell in the deficient category (over -20 per cent) this year.
In 2002, 22 subdivisions were deficient. The total cumulative country-wide deficiency, too, is only 10 per cent this year, against 25 per cent in 2002. And significantly, the number of administrative districts receiving "scanty" rainfall (over -60 per cent) is only 49 this year, against as many as 146 in 2002.
Indeed, the partial revival of the monsoon in some parts in the week ending July 14 has led to some improvement in several pockets though a vast tract in the north-west, notably Rajasthan has remained virtually rainless.
Among the areas that have benefited from the rains during this week are Rayalseema, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Maharashtra.
The areas that still suffer from extreme rainfall deficit include, Rajasthan (-60 per cent), western Madhya Pradesh (-44 per cent) and Vidharba (-36 per cent). Rainfall shortage of around 30 per cent persists in Telengana, central Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh.
Recharge of water reservoirs that had acquired some momentum, thanks to good pre-monsoon showers and satisfactory monsoon rainfall in the early part of the season, has slowed down.
The total water storage in the country's 71 major reservoirs was estimated on July 9 at around 131.28 billion cubic metres. This is only 20 per cent of the full reservoir capacity though about 32 per cent above last year's corresponding level. Six reservoirs continue to report no utilisable water.
Regarding crop stand, situation is disquieting concerning coarse cereals, pulses and the main kharif crop of paddy. Their sowing is lagging significantly behind the normal schedule. However, paddy coverage in Punjab and Orissa is relatively better thanks to irrigation in the former and adequate rainfall in the latter.
Similarly, cotton sowing this year is relatively better in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat due to good pre-monsoon and early-season showers. But sugarcane sowing is poor in the major growing states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The area shrinkage is due also to shift from sugarcane to other crops owing to non-payment of old cane price arrears and emergence of woolly aphid pest.