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There are no cosmetic solutions for climate change-induced parched winter

This year’s Economic Survey has a chapter on what climate change related developments would mean for Indian agriculture. Extreme rainfall shocks can lead to a 13.7% and 5.5% fall in average kharif and rabi revenues. Un-irrigated areas would be worse-hit. We can take solace from the fact that at least there is an academic acknowledgement of the policy-challenge at hand.

editorials Updated: Feb 27, 2018 18:08 IST
Hindustan Times
Economic Survey,Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy,Vidarbha sub-division
Extreme rainfall shocks can lead to a 13.7% and 5.5% fall in average kharif and rabi revenues. Un-irrigated areas would be worse-hit(HT)

Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy shows that there has been a large rainfall deficit in every week except one since the one ending December 20, 2017. Up to February 21, there is a cumulative deficit of 64% from normal rainfall. Another set of figures can put this number in context. Total rainfall deficiency in 2014 and 2015, considered drought years, was just 15 percentage points vis-à-vis the Long Period Average (LPA). The reason we do not hear about this so much is because rabi crops have much better irrigation coverage than kharif. Wheat farmers in Punjab, Haryana etc. do not depend on rainfall as much as paddy cultivation is dependent on the monsoons.

This does not make the event inconsequential, though. Low rainfall means a shorter winter. This can adversely affect crop yields due to premature ripening and loss of weight of grains. Deviation from the set pattern of winter rains can also trigger abnormal rains in certain parts of the country. In the Vidarbha subdivision, deviation from normal rainfall is 100% in all weeks since the one ending December 6, 2017, except one. In the week ending February 14, 2018 rainfall was more than 1000% over and above of how much it rains normally. All of us have read about hailstorms destroying standing crops in the area.

These are not on-off events anymore. Scientific studies suggest that rising temperatures, truncated winters, erratic rainfall events etc. are becoming more of a norm across the world.

This year’s Economic Survey has a chapter on what climate change related developments will mean for Indian agriculture. Extreme rainfall shocks can lead to a 13.7% and 5.5% fall in average kharif and rabi revenues. Un-irrigated areas will be worse-hit. We can take solace from the fact that at least there is an academic acknowledgement of the policy challenge at hand.

The problem will not stop at farming. Depleting groundwater tables are a concern in most parts of India. We are planning hundreds of smart cities without any sustainable water source. Winter rains are more important for southern India. There is already talk of whether Bengaluru will end up as the second Cape Town, which is dreading Day Zero when even taps would run dry.

There are no cosmetic solutions for a climate change-induced parched winter.

First Published: Feb 27, 2018 18:08 IST