The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Monsoon alarm in grain bowls
- Contingency plans pencilled as threat of deficient rainfall looms on Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Telengana and central India
Clouds gather above Parliament House on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, July 13: Meteorologists now expect the monsoon to revive by Friday, but said rains may continue to elude some key regions, including the grainbowls of Punjab and Haryana, for the next several days.

Top government officials met today to discuss the implications of the latest forecast of a monsoon revival by July 16, and the threat of deficit rainfall in central India, Telengana, Rajasthan, and northwestern states.

The cabinet secretary called a special meeting attended by a senior weather scientist and secretaries from the departments of agriculture, food, water, and rural development.

Until the end of last week, India had received 203 mm of rainfall against an expected 226 mm — a 10 per cent deviation from the normal. And 12 out of the 36 meteorological subdivisions had received deficit rainfall.

Agriculture officials have pencilled contingency crop plans for the areas expected to receive deficient rain. But agriculture commissioner Charu Dutt Mayee said: “It is too early for anyone to quantify the impact of this long lull period on crop output.”

After an early onset, the monsoon had sunk into a quiescent phase on June 18. Over the past three days, it has shown signs of a revival.

“There’s absolutely no cause for panic, but we have to be alert,” said Radha Singh, agriculture secretary. “We’re only doing advance planning for what may or may not happen.”

Singh said state governments have been informed about contingency crops if the monsoon does not revive by July 15, July 30, or by August 15. If the monsoon does not revive until August 15, the government would have to consider drought-relief programmes, she said.

Weather scientists said “precursors” for the revival are visible — wind patterns and a low pressure area in the Bay of Bengal. They expect the low pressure zone to move northwest and bring rains across central India up to Gujarat over the next five days. Rains are expected in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and western Uttar Pradesh.

“A little damage can be made up if a good revival takes place,” said Laxman Rathore, a senior agro-meteorologist at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting.

But the forecast of a continuing dry spell in the northwest is worrying Punjab.

Although most of Punjab is irrigated by canals and tubewells, “rainfall is necessary”, said Sukhdev Singh Hundal, the head of agro-meteorology at the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. “It’s been three weeks since paddy was planted here, and the crop is under stress.”

The receding groundwater table and electricity shortages in Punjab force farmers to invest in expensive pumps to extract deeper groundwater. “The input costs go up sharply when there are no rains,” Hundal said.

Agriculture officials have reported shortfalls in the area where pulses and coarse cereals were sown. The area under pulses dropped to 8.8 million hectares from 11.2 million hectares last year. The area under rice this year is 9 million hectares against 9.2 million last year.

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