29% of India is witnessing dry weather, shows IIT study

Updated on Sep 07, 2021 02:45 AM IST
Around 29% of India’s geographic area is undergoing a spell of dry weather, two-thirds of the way through the country’s monsoon, which was deficient by 9% at the end of August, according to the drought tracker of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, released on Monday
Temperatures pass 50 degrees Celsius in northern India as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and heatstroke. (AFP)
Temperatures pass 50 degrees Celsius in northern India as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and heatstroke. (AFP)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Around 29% of India’s geographic area is undergoing a spell of dry weather, two-thirds of the way through the country’s monsoon, which was deficient by 9% at the end of August, according to the drought tracker of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, released on Monday.

The tracker captures rainfall patterns across India and using various metrics including the standard precipitation index found that till September 4, there were no drought like conditions in about 71% of country’s geographical area, but that the remaining did show these conditions with a rain deficiency ranging from 20% to 77%. The tracker shows that almost all of Gujarat, western Odisha, eastern West Bengal, Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and several districts in north-eastern India face drought like conditions.

According to the India Meteorological Department, Churachandpur district of Manipur, which has highest rainfall deficiency (77%) this monsoon, is an indication of how erratic monsoon rainfall has been this year. The last time, this district had such deficient rainfall was in 1960s.

Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, has a rain deficiency of 69%. Across regions, north-west India has the highest rain deficiency of 14% followed by Central India (13%) and East and North East India (10%). Only southern India has excess rainfall of 12%.

The drought like situation this year is dramatically different from last year. On September 4, 2020, only 9% of India had dry weather or drought like conditions.

Vimal Mishra of IIT Gandhinagar, who developed the tracker said the dryness is calculated using three parameters --- precipitation index (rainfall drought), run-off index (hydrological drought) and soil moisture index (agriculture drought).

“We consider observations from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to develop drought maps. Drought maps are based on both short- and long-term droughts,” he said.

Mishra added that some regions of western Uttar Pradesh and north western India were experiencing long-term drought, having witnessed a rain deficiency for several months. For instance, the Lahaul-Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh has a rain deficiency of minus 69%.

Parts of Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh are also seeing a high level of soil dryness due to rainfall deficit during this monsoon season, Mishra said. Of these, parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh saw floods in middle of August because of sudden extreme rainfall.

Odisha agriculture minister Arun Sahoo said a contingency crop management plan is being implemented in 213 of 314 blocks in Odisha facing deficient rainfall. Sowing has been impacted in 90% of agriculture land in the 213 blocks, Sahoo admitted.

Madhya Pradesh government officials said a survey of drought hit blocks in the Bundelkhand region has started to provide relief to farmers. The rain shadow areas of Bundelkhand region that fall in both Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has received up to 60% less rainfall as compared to last year even though neighbouring Gwalior has received 12% excess rains.

Mahesh Palawat of private forecaster Skymet Weather said many areas saw short bursts of heavy rainfall which resulted in high run-off and less soil moisture retention, unlike a drizzle. “So, average rainfall may be same as previous year but the impact of short spurt of rain on soil moisture is less.”

What is happening in India is exactly what many studies on the climate crisis have been saying. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on South Asia said the region would be “very hot” and flooded (also means water logging in urban areas) in the coming years due to adverse impact of rising surface and sea level temperatures.

IPCC predicted increase in intensity of heat waves, heavy rainfall at expense of moderate rainfall, especially in Central India, and significant decline in summer monsoon, because of warming of Bay of Bengal. Coastal flooding, which happens once in 50 years, is expected to take place once in three years by turn of century the report said. Droughts are likely to increase in north-west and peninsular India, leading to significant fall in soil moisture level, the report added.

The drought tracker shows this. Jaunpur district in Uttar Pradesh has received 61% less rainfall and is marked dry whereas neighbouring Pratrapgarh district has 43% excess rain.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Chetan Chauhan heads regional editions as Deputy National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over 20 years, he has written extensively on social sector with special focus on environment and political economy.

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