India has deployed satellites to scour 13 states, including 9 high farm output ones, for signs of a drought, as rain-tracking goes high-tech with indigenous space technology.
The big leap came when the country launched its first major satellite dedicated to agriculture, RISAT 1, in 2012, cutting dependence on the Canadian Radarsat, helping save foreign exchange.
Although droughts no longer spell disaster like they used to, predictions of a patchy monsoon for the first time in four years will again test India’s successful but underrated drought-management system. In 2009, when the country was hit by its worst drought in three decades, India’s food grain output was higher by a million tonne than in 2007, a normal year.
This year, the country is set to see a satellite-based drought-mitigation technology come in handy. An inter-ministerial meet to review drought-preparedness has called for harnessing “NADAMS”, a technology transferred to the National Crop Forecasting Centre by ISRO.
District-wise analysis, by the end of July last year, accurately indicated “normal” farm conditions in 316 districts, while in 13 districts where rainfall was scanty, it issued early alert warnings.
“The fundamental change is that liaising with states becomes faster and more effective, which is crucial to managing droughts,” said Sanjeev Gupta, joint secretary in charge of IT application at the farm ministry.
The system can zoom into districts in 13 states, and to the “taluka” level in four others, sending back data, which when processed tells about prevailing agricultural situation. When manually done, such monitoring can take weeks.
The FAO has hailed India’s ability to sustain its grains output during droughts. But they still stoke food inflation.