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Dry days ahead? Marathwada and Vidarbha face threat of rain deficit

24 state districts likely to receive “weak monsoon”; water crisis may worsen

mumbai Updated: May 14, 2019 23:58 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Marathwada is likely to witness a less than normal monsoon(HT Photo)

Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra are in the belt that may receive the lowest rainfall across the country this monsoon. According to private weather forecasting agency Skymet, which released its region-wise rainfall forecast for the southwest monsoon on Tuesday, these regions may witness a below-normal or deficient monsoon this year.

Skymet’s forecast warned that the monsoon may have “a weak onset over the Indian subcontinent, resulting in a sluggish start”. For Central India, which includes Vidarbha and Marathwada, Skymet has forecasted a 9% deficit in rainfall. “Districts in Vidarbha and Marathwada have to be on drought watch and take precautionary measures,” said Jatin Singh, managing director, Skymet.

On April 3, Skymet had identified 24 of 36 districts in Maharashtra (mostly in Vidarbha and Marathwada) as likely to receive below-normal rain between June and September. Tuesday’s forecast is consistent with their previous prediction. Singh said, “This region [central India] is expected to receive the lowest rainfall across the country with Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra, west Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, all witnessing a deficient monsoon.” Singh attributed this to the El Niño phenomenon, in which warm water from the western Pacific Ocean flows towards the east, shifting precipitation towards it and weakening monsoon currents in other parts of the world.

Skymet’s forecast contradicts the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) prediction. In April, the IMD said there would be a “near-normal” monsoon this year. “Until June some impact of El Niño can be seen, but a decreasing trend is definitely being witnessed,” said Dr. KJ Ramesh, director general, IMD. “A positive Indian Ocean dipole – an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon in the Indian Ocean that leads to cooling of sea surface temperature – will be another favourable factor for a near-normal monsoon,” he said, adding that the IMD is providing warnings related to heat waves while the district administrations are providing regular updates of surface water and groundwater levels.

HT had reported on Tuesday that Skyment anticipated the southwest monsoon would reach Mumbai 10 days late this year and the onset could take place between June 15 and June 18, or even as late as June 20 whereas the normal onset is June 8 to 10. “The Konkan coast is likely to witness below-normal to normal rain over the four monsoon months. The first two months are likely to be below normal, but rains will pick up from August onwards,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president (meteorology and climate change), Skymet.

India defines normal rainfall as between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 89 cm, between June and September.

First Published: May 14, 2019 23:58 IST