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Get ready for a scorcher of a summer

Get ready for a scorching summer this year with rainfall falling 24 to 84 per cent below normal this winter in northern and central India. The average temperature was also two to four degrees Celsius above normal. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: Mar 16, 2009 02:22 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Get ready for a scorching summer this year with rainfall falling 24 to 84 per cent below normal this winter in northern and central India. The average temperature was also two to four degrees Celsius above normal.

Many perennial water sources in the Himalayan region, a major source for summer water for major rivers like Sutlej, Yamuna and Ganga that provide drinking water to the Indian plains, have gone dry.

Another water source for rivers — the Himalayan glaciers — has received snowfall only once this winter compared to six to eight times in the previous years.

“It’s a drought-like situation in the entire northern region. We are heading for an acute problem,” said J.P. Dabral, president of NGO Himalayan Chipkoo Foundation.

The situation can be gauged from the fact that the dry winter has caused a fall in water level in hydo-power plants in Himalayan region like the Tehri Dam in Uttrakhand, which provides both water and power to Delhi.

Further fall in the water level would mean lesser generation of power, forcing the government to ration electricity supply to cities like Delhi during the summers.

“For the last two months, there has been almost no rains in central India and only little in the northern parts of the country. It is a crisis situation,” said a senior official of the Meteorological Department.

Data provided by the Indian Meteorological Department shows that the rainfall in January and February has been 24 to 84 per cent below normal. Northern and western India got only 60 millimetre (mm) of rainfall as compared to 147 mm in 2005.

Central India got only 4.7 mm of rain as compared to 30.7 mm in 2005.

GB Pant, former director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, said the “negligible rainfall” can be attributed to weak western disturbances that cause precipitation in winters. “It could have happened because of global warming,” he said.

Dabral, however, blamed deforestation in the Himalayas as a cause for winters getting warmer. The mean winter temperature was 2 to 4 degree Celsius above normal in many parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. “In some areas of Orissa and Maharashtra, maximum temperature crossed 40 degree Celsius in February. Such heat is witnessed during early summers,” a meteorological department official said.

A huge change in climate this winter has left farmers and agriculture scientists worried. “The crops on the fields are drying up. Even the level of underground water has fallen,” said Mahender Singh Thaikat, a farmer leader from Uttar Pradesh.