Half of India faces drought with low pre-monsoon rain, heat spell
Around 43% of the country is staring at a drought, government reports released in the past week show. By June 15, it would increase to 51%, if the monsoon isn’t sufficient.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that India received 99 mm of pre-monsoon rain between March 1 and May 31 — a deficiency of 25%. “This has been the second driest pre-monsoon season in the last 65 years,” Skymet Weather reported. In 2012, the deficiency was 31% with 90.5mm pre-monsoon rains.
The IMD’s rain reports show that Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, parts of the Northeast, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are the worst hit, and more than 500 million people likely to face the impact.
“Before onset of monsoon, which is still away, the next few months are going to be difficult for many of these regions,” said Vimal Mishra, associate professor at IIT Gandhinagar, whose team runs the Drought Early Warning System, which showed that around 43% of India is facing dry weather conditions, which can result in drought in coming months if the monsoon rainfall is not sufficient.
The India Meteorological Department on June 1 said that this year the monsoon rainfall is likely to be “normal” at 96% of the long period average (LPA), and indicated that it would be evenly spread that could bring some respite to people suffering from dry weather conditions.
However, the impact is already being felt. In Maharashtra, around 20,000 villages are facing severe drinking water crises with no water left in 35 major and medium dams. In about 1,000 small dams, the water level is less than 7.6%, according to the data released by Maharashtra water resources department on June 3. In first week of June in 2018, the average water level in these dams was 17.89 %.
Marathwada is one of the worst affected regions in the state, with eight of the nine dams reported totally dry. Last year, these dams had 14.15% water levels. Nagpur and Nashik regions are slightly better with 6.2% of the water left in dams, while Pune division has 7.53% water left in dams.
Vijay Kumar Phad, deputy commissioner (revenue), of Aurangabad division, said orders have been issued to tap new water sources in the region. “We have deployed 3359 tankers to supply water to 2,374 villages and 803 hamlets in the region,” he added.
In parts of Bundelkhand and Vindhya in Madhya Pradesh, villagers are fetching water from make-shift wells and reservoirs in forest areas, which, officials say, is not potable.
Phulchand Yadav of Badagaon village in Tikamgarh district of Bundelkhand, said, “Since there is no water in hand pumps and wells in the village are dry, we have to fetch water from a well two kilometres away. We are just about able to get water for running the household and cooking meals.” The temperature has hovered at a little over 45 degrees Celsius for the past three months, here. Residents of Daha village in Damoh district get their daily supply of water from a reservoir in a forest area, which is also being used by the animals. “What option do we have?” asked Hemchand Ahir, of Daha villager, claiming that all the wells in the area have dried up and there are no water tankers servicing their area, either.
A Madhya Pradesh water resources department official, who was not willing to be quoted said that more than 5,000 villages and about 150 urban areas out of the total 378 were facing acute water crisis, leading to small towns such as Sagar, Ujjain and Gwalior getting drinking water supply once in two days. In state capital Bhopal, the municipal corporation has not been able to supply water to many localities once a day, officials said.
The water levels in some of the dams that provide drinking water to major towns have almost dried up. As per the data of the water resources department, Gambhir dam in Ujjain, Rajghat dam in Sagar, and Chillar dam in Shajapur have almost dried up. The water level in the upper lake in Bhopal has reached its lowest level in the past 10 years.
Madhya Pradesh minister for urban administration, Jaivardhan Singh said that there is a major water crisis in about 100 to 150 urban bodies . “We are trying to provide water to all the people through tankers and private sources of water too.” Principal secretary, Public Health Engineering, Sanjay Shukla said, “We are monitoring water supply daily to meet demand of people for water.”
The dry condition can spell doom for the farm sector, especially in Maharashtra. According to the Maharashtra agriculture department, sowing for summer crops in 2019 was about 36% less than it was in 2018. The post-monsoon rainfall deficit in 2018 had resulted in lesser sowing of rabi crop by about a third.
Secretary of the second Maharashtra Irrigation Commission, DM More, said the present situation can adversely impact fodder for cattle, which would affect the dairy industry.
The agriculture and farmers welfare ministry redefined drought in 2016 as water shortage for human, cattle and agriculture consumption. The ministry classifies drought into meteorological, hydrological and agricultural based on four indices — rainfall, satellite estimation of vegetation loss, crop situation and availability of water — replacing the age-old method of crop loss estimation by local revenue officials as a mechanism to declare drought.
While the Central government has not declared drought so far, the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan have declared many of the districts as drought-hit in recent months.