The southwest monsoon hit Kerala, its first port of call in the Indian mainland, on Tuesday after being held up by a moisture-sucking typhoon in the north-west Pacific.
Despite its near-timely arrival and a normal monsoon forecast in April, scientists at the meteorological department are worried over the possibility of El Nino weather conditions, which can weaken the monsoon and trigger droughts, such as the one in 2009.
An official weather advisory on Tuesday said owing to favorable conditions, “onset of monsoon over Kerala has been declared on June 5”. (The monsoon hits Kerala by June 1).
Monsoon rains are vital not only to agriculture but also to the whole economy, as more than two-thirds of Indians depend on farm income. Rural spending on almost all items — from television sets to motorcycles and jewellery — goes up when adequate monsoon raises farm output. This demand aids economic growth.
Normal rains check inflation through good farm output and are critical for Asia’s third-largest economy to recover from the sharp slowdown.
The rains help recharge 81 centrally monitored reservoirs of national importance, critical for irrigation, power and drinking. Their timely arrival and uniform distribution is vital for summer-sown crops in India, the world's second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton.
On Tuesday, the whole of Kerala, small parts of coastal Karnataka and southern Tamil Nadu received rain. “The state witnessed showers which met all parameters of monsoon. Conditions are favourable for the further advance in some parts of Arabian sea and Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in 2-3 days,” IMD regional director K Santhosh told HT.
The annual monsoon, after hitting the V-shaped Indian mainland, branches out into two paths, one over the Arabian Sea and the other over Bay of Bengal, both helping cover the entire country by the first week of July.