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India’s wettest zone in driest phase

india Updated: Jul 04, 2009 02:44 IST
Rahul Karmakar

At an average 11,430 mm, Cherrapunjee and adjoining Mawsynram in Meghalaya receives the world’s highest rainfall. This monsoon, however, these ‘rain-magnets’ are nowhere near half that mark.

Meghalaya is the reason why the North-East is India’s wettest zone. But ever since the monsoon officially set in on May 25, the region (minus Sikkim) has received 46 per cent less rainfall. Meghalaya leads the table with a whopping 76 per cent deficit.

“This monsoon has started on a very disturbing note,” regional director of Regional Meteorological Centre Deva Kanta Handique told HT. “Like Meghalaya, Nagaland has received 56 per cent less rainfall up to June 23. Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura follow with 46, 44, 36, 35 and 27 per cent deficit respectively.”

Farmers in the hill states, dependent on rain for their terrace or slope farm, have been hit hard. In the plains of Assam, drought-like conditions have affected paddy cultivation. “This is the kathiapora (sowing season) requiring ample rainfall, but fields in the prime rice belts are lying barren,” said Bhaben Kalita of a self-help farming group in western Assam’s Rangiya subdivision.

The Assam government has taken a few measures to combat the crisis. “We have decided to provide diesel worth Rs 6 crore to farmers in drought-hit areas so that they can run generators to draw water for their fields. This is being worked out with the Irrigation Department,” said Assam Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma.

Bearing the brunt of this low-rain situation are the state electricity boards. The normally power-surplus Meghalaya has resorted to abnormal power cuts to be able to sell enough electricity to adjoining states for revenue generation. The Umiam reservoir, the State’s main source of electricity, has almost bottomed out to deepen the crisis.

Assam, the most industrialised among the seven northeastern states, has been the hardest hit. “We can do nothing about the unprecedented power crisis if the rainless climate continues,” said Assam State Electricity Board chairman Anil K Sachan. “Because of humidity, peak hour demand has crossed 900MW, but we have been able to provide only 750MW.”

Deficit rainfall has affected generation of ASEB’s 250MW Kopili hydropower project. Drastic reduction in water level has resulted in North East Electric Power Corporation Ltd’s Ranganadi (in Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh) producing only 193 million units from March to May as compared to 282 million units during the same period in 2008.

The installed capacity of Ranganadi is 400MW and Assam gets 200MW of this under normal circumstances.