Monsoon arrival welcome relief for scorched India
The southwest monsoon arrived in India on Thursday a few days behind schedule but bringing welcome relief for the country broiling in a heat wave that has killed more than 1,200 people.india Updated: Jun 06, 2003 11:38 IST
The southwest monsoon arrived in India on Thursday a few days behind schedule but bringing welcome relief for the country broiling in a heat wave that has killed more than 1,200 people.
Theweather office said the rains hit the northeast first, coming off the Bay of Bengal instead of moving in from the Arabian Sea and hitting the southwest coast as is usual.
Heavy rain lashed Bangladesh's capital Dhaka and other parts of that country on Thursday, bringing relief after weeks of a hot spell that has killed about 40 people.
People rushed out of homes to cool off, while flooded streets slowed traffic in the capital.
The Meteorological Department in New Delhi said the southwest monsoon, the lifeline of India's farm-dependent economy, is on schedule to hit Kerala on June 8-10, a few days later than usual.
Agriculture, which accounts for about a quarter of gross domestic product and drives demand in Asia's third-largest economy, depends heavily on the timely arrival and distribution of monsoon rain.
EL NINO DROUGHT
Officials reiterated that the delay in the onset of the monsoon would not have a bearing on the amount of rainfall this year, which is forecast to be near normal.
They said previously that the devastating El Nino weather pattern that last year triggered the country's worst drought in 15 years was nearly over.
Large parts of India have been reeling under a three-week heat wave in which temperatures have touched 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).
Most of the deaths have been in Andhra Pradesh, where 1,209 people -- mostly rickshaw pullers, street hawkers and the homeless -- have died of sunstroke and dehydration. Dozens have died in Pakistan. In the Himalayan foothills of the north, six people, including four children, died in a forest fire, a government official said.
"You can see the whole area engulfed in smoke. At night it looks like a giant fireball," the official said from Uttaranchal's capital, Dehradun.
UNPRECEDENTED HEAT WAVE
Weather officials in New Delhi said temperatures have hit 48 to 50 degrees in the past, but a heat wave of this duration is unprecedented.
On Tuesday, the temperature hit 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in Bolangir district in the eastern state of Orissa where authorities closed schools and colleges.
Large parts of India are also critically short of water as rivers, lakes and wells have dried up.
Tens of thousands of people are forced to trek miles in search of wells that have not run dry or wait hours in the blistering sun for water tankers.
India's groundwater has dipped to dangerously low levels due to years of drought, leaving millions of people without clean drinking water in the world's second most populous nation, activists said
Environmentalists say the dramatic dip in the water table has also raised water contamination levels and groundwater in some parts of the country is polluted with high levels of nitrates, fluoride and even arsenic.
"We're in an extremely fragile situation. Access to clean drinking water is a problem for tens of thousands of people in India," Sumita Dasgupta, a water expert from the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, told Reuters.
First Published: Jun 06, 2003 11:38 IST