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Take cover: India could be heading for patchy monsoon

india Updated: Mar 01, 2014 12:00 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times

India’s monsoon, the lifeblood of Asia’s third-largest economy, could be patchy this year, potentially posing an immediate challenge for a new government after polls in May.

The country has been able to avoid a drought for four consecutive years, resulting in some record food output. It is expected to harvest 263 million tonne foodgrains this year, the highest ever.

Chances of El Nino, a weather glitch, are higher this year, at least two international weather bureaus have indicated. El Nino, literally “little boy” in Spanish, is marked by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean and creates havoc in weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region. It is also associated with drier conditions in Australia and a weaker monsoon India.

Summer rains are critical for India because two-thirds of Indians depend on farm income and 60% of farmed areas do not have any source of irrigation.

“There are possibilities of a weak El Nino. Currently, conditions are neutral. However, predictions done before May have lower skill (accuracy). We will have clearer picture then. So, we don’t want to frighten people at this stage,” S Sivanada Pai, India’s chief monsoon forecaster told HT.

Based on the weather inputs, agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna on Friday asked states to brace for any eventuality. “A contingency plan has been prepared for over 500 districts of the country,” he said.

Farm minister Sharad Pawar and senior agriculture ministry officials, who held discussions with India’s Met department, have been told about an approaching El Nino weather pattern.