A series of reports clearly indicates that nearly 40 per cent of the country is facing an acute paucity of pre-monsoon rain, causing severe water distress in scorching heat.
- The rain deficit has been as high as 48 per cent in the southern peninsula, especially Tamil Nadu and coastal Karnataka; nearly 30 per cent in western India, notably Gujarat and large parts of Maharashtra; 17 per cent in the Central region; and 12 per cent in the north-east.
- Shortfalls of 70 to 80 per cent have also been reported from some places. The overall countrywide average rainfall between March and May remained 23 per cent below normal.
- While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted the likely rainfall to be around 96 per cent of the long-period average, private weather forecaster Skymet has put it at 91 per cent.
- But the problem is the forecast made by both of them — that the monsoon would be sluggish to begin with, thus, portending a possible delay in relief from water crisis in some areas.
- The reason cited for this is the existence of El Nino (warming up of the Pacific Ocean), which often impairs the monsoon performance.
Not all is bad –
- Of the three main facets of drought — meteorological, hydrological and agricultural — the present conditions conform chiefly to the meteorological drought (rainfall inadequacy).
- Only in some pockets, aridity has accentuated to cause hydrological desiccation as reflected in exhaustion of the surface and groundwater resources.
- The overall hydrological profile of the country is still positive with the total water stock in 91 major reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission being around 14 per cent above the last year’s corresponding level and 3 per cent higher than the long-period average (May 30 data). Agricultural drought has, by and large, been averted as the rabi crops have mostly been harvested and the kharif ones are yet to be planted.
- An enduring solution to the recurring water crunch lies, indeed, in droughtproofing the vulnerable areas. In-situ conservation of rainwater is the main mantra to do so.
- The need is to construct rainwater-harvesting structures at the field, village and watershed levels by digging ponds or putting up check dams at suitable sites on the natural water drainage routes.
- This is a time tested water management practice that has helped people survive even in the chronically arid areas.
- It requires broad-based planning, keeping in view the whole watershed which may transgress village, district or even state boundaries.
Piecemeal moves like taking up isolated water conservation works under the rural employment programmes can, at best, offer limited gains.
Source – Business Standard