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Poor monsoon this year
North-west to be worst hit; govt says no need to worry
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 24
In a worrying development for the country’s economy, especially the agriculture sector, the government today announced that the monsoon is likely to be below normal this season.

“South-west monsoon from June to September is likely to be below normal,” said Minister for Science and Technology and also Minister of State in the PMO, Prithvi Raj Chavan, while talking to mediapersons here.

However, he put up a brave face saying the situation was not worrisome and monsoon was gradually increasing and would cover large parts of eastern and Central India in the next one week.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the monsoon rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be 93 per cent of the long-period average with an error margin of 4 per cent. This is three per cent less than what the IMD had forecast in April raising concerns about its impact on agriculture and economy. Just for the record sake, anything less than 90 percent of this long period average is a “deficient year”.

According to the forecast, the north-western region of the country is likely to get deficient rains while monsoon is expected to be below normal in north-east and peninsular India. Central India, which is yet to receive rains, is expected to have a normal monsoon.

Farmers in most parts of the country had to defer sowing for major cash crops like sugarcane, rice, bajra, maize and monsoon failure may make the task of sustaining growth rates more challenging for the government. Although farm sector accounts for less than 20 per cent of GDP, the country was hoping that a good crop would prop up growth, especially when other sectors are not doing so well given the global slowdown.

Any major weakening of the monsoon will have a huge impact on power generation. Among the worst-hit states will be Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh where the monsoon is not expected to hit before the first week of July. According to experts, these states — some of which produce 65-70 percent of the grain for the national food pool — will receive only 81 of the predicted rainfall during July and August. A high-level meeting of officials of power, agriculture and water resources ministries discussed the matter and it was decided that a strict rationing system would be followed when it comes to use of water from the two major dams in north India--- Bhakra and Pong, where the evening peak power supply to the northern power grid and generation has dropped by 30 per cent. A fast-depleting water level has added to the worry.

Chavan, however, clarified that the nation was not heading for a drought-like situation, adding that plans are in place in every department of government of India as to what needs to be done when there is excess or deficient rains. “Out of the past 16 years, the monsoon has revived on 11 occasions. I don’t see any reason why it won’t do this time,” Chavan said.

Already, Prime Minister Manmihan Singh has directed that the monsoon should be monitored closely. The Cabinet secretary is meeting agriculture secretaries of the states where agriculture is rain-fed.

The IMD said the “El Nino” factor was one of the reasons for the slowing down of the rains. The phenomenon occurs once in 4-5 years and is the outcome of oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the six parameters by which the Indian monsoon is predicted.

The IMD said an analysis of latest meteorological conditions and forecast of various numerical weather prediction models suggest gradual strengthening of monsoon current with the increase in pressure gradient over Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.It said monsoon is likely to advance over some more parts of Maharashtra, remaining parts of Karnataka and some parts of Gujarat in the next two days.

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Jittery AP govt orders yajnas to please rain gods
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, June 24
With the monsoons playing truant, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh is seeking divine intervention for rains.

An official order has been issued calling for organising special prayers at temples, churches and mosques to propitiate the rain Gods. The Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy instructed the Endowments Department to conduct “Varuna Yagam” in all major temples and “Sahasra Ghattabhishekam” in Siva temples across the state.

Beginning today, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), an autonomous body managing the affairs of the famous Tirumala temple, will be conducting “Varuna Yagam” in all major temples run by it. The Endowments Minister G Venkat Reddy said he would personally supervise the “Yagam.” The delayed monsoon is sending jitters among the officials who fear that if the continued dry spell could spell doom for the agricultural operations. After entering the state on June 1, the Southwest monsoon has been dormant till now. As a result, water in all the reservoirs has touched the dead storage level and consequently the irrigation department has been postponing release of water into the canals.

The water level in Srisailam reservoir was 805.90 ft as against 885 ft Full Reservoir Level (FRL). In Nagarjuna Sagar, it was 506.30 ft as against 590 ft FRL.

The farmers are keeping their fingers crossed over the prospects of rainfall. The power utilities are finding it difficult to maintain the promised seven- hour free power supply to farmers in view of acute shortage while hydel generation is yet to begin in the state.

“There is still some time. The kharif agricultural season has just begun and we are hopeful of getting rains in the next week,” the officials said. Except Kurnool and Mahbubnagar, all districts have recorded deficient rainfall, ranging from 20 per cent to 99 per cent. The delay has caused a drastic fall in sowing of many crops. The total area sown in the state stood at 3.71 lakh hectares against the total area of 79.07 lakh hectares.

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Project Varsha may be brought out of cold storage
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 24
The Maharashtra government is considering implementing a cloud seeding programme to boost rainfall this season. Though the monsoon is showing signs of revival, the state agricultural department is gearing up for the worst.

Project Varsha, as the programme is called, was first mooted in 2005 and had since been lying in the cold storage. “We are considering a revival of the programme to increase rainfall in Maharashtra,” an official of the state agricultural department said, while talking to the Tribune. The Maharashtra government has obtained encouraging results from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meterology, whose studies indicated that rainfall could be raised by as much as 20 per cent following the cloud seeding programme. Usually, such programmes are effective right at the start of rainy season when the density of clouds is high. Under the programme, special radars detect rain-bearing clouds. Specially equipped airplanes then spray hygroscopic salts into them. As a result, water droplets in the clouds coalesce get bigger and heavier, and then fall as rain.

Once the government gives a go-ahead, tenders will have to be floated to engage international companies specialising in the business. Most of Maharashtra’s 35 districts are waiting for the rain as the monsoon weakened after showing signs of strength earlier this month.

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