Annual monsoon rains arrived at Kerala coast and Lakshadweep on Wednesday, a day later than the forecast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) announced.
K Santhosh, director at the IMD office in Thiruvananthapuram, said “good rains” were expected in the coming days across Kerala.
The monsoon delivers nearly 70% of rains that India needs to water farms, and recharge reservoirs and aquifers. Nearly half of the country’s farmlands, without any irrigation cover, depend on annual June-September rains to grow a number of crops.
Despite the slight delay, the monsoon is not expected to set back crop sowing and rains are expected to make rapid progress after their arrival.
Several parts of Kerala has been receiving heavy rains since Tuesday night, and police said one person died after mounds of earth and rocks fell on his home at Vazhavara.
The IMD department has said in its updated forecast this year’s monsoon will be “normal to excess”, raising hopes in the country hit hard by back-to-back droughts.
According to the Met’s classification, the monsoon is considered normal if it is 96-104% of the 50-year average of 89 cm. If rains are between 104-110%, it is considered above normal.
Northern states, such as food bowl Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan and Delhi, will get above-normal rainfall of 108%. In central India and peninsular India, a region that grows important crops, such as paddy, pulses and gram, the rains would be way above normal at 113%.
Heavy rainfall towards the tail-end of the monsoon season in September could be strong enough to cause floods or damage farms.
Two years of drought, triggered by a persistent El Nino weather pattern, have shriveled the rural economy. El Nino is a weather glitch marked by higher-than-normal sea surface temperatures and is known to affect the monsoon.
Last year, the monsoon was deficient by 14%, leading to a crippling drought in 302 of India’s 640 districts. In 2014, the rains were short by 12%.
Monsoon failure apart, unseasonal rains and hail have battered farms too.
Poor farm incomes ultimately impact the country’s overall GDP by damping down rural sales, necessary to keep the economy growing. Nearly half of all motorcycles, television sets and a host of consumer items are sold in rural areas.
Jettisoning a statistical method introduced under British colonial rule in the 1920s, India’s meteorology office is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer to improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts in time for next year’s rains.