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Weak start to Indian monsoon theatens drought

Weak start to Indian monsoon theatens drought
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First Published: Wed, Jul 15 2009. 12 48 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Jul 15 2009. 12 48 PM IST
Bhubaneswar: Much of India is facing the threat of a major drought after the worst start to the vital monsoon in eight decades, despite flash floods in the east that killed at least 15 people.
In the northeastern states of Assam and Manipur, authorities have already declared droughts after scant rain.
A 30% rainfall deficit in Assam, a tea- and rice-producing state, led to extensive crop damage and industry officials said tea prices have soared.
“An action plan has been worked out to provide water to the people in the affected area, so that there should not be any shortage of drinking water,” said Tarun Gogoi, Assam’s chief minister.
Weak rains forced the federal government to divert power supplies to the countryside to irrigate rice and oilseed crops and limit damage, a move which threatens to worsen the summer power deficit that has plagued India for decades.
Though India’s farm minister said on Monday he expected the monsoon rains to improve, jitters prompted New Delhi to stop wheat exports 10 days after it lifted a two-year ban on shipments.
But in the flood-prone eastern coastal state of Orissa, the government told local authorities to stock food and put rescue teams on standby as heavy rain stranded thousands, with more downpours were expected.
“We have confirmed 15 deaths due to rain-related mishaps,” the state minister for revenue and disaster management, Surya Narayan Patro, told agency.
Trains resumed normal service despite more rain in the financial hub Mumbai, on the west coast, on Wednesday, a day after floods shut crucial railway lines.
TV footage in Orissa showed people wading through submerged streets in villages and towns in knee-deep water. The state of more than 36 million people is prone to cyclones and floods that killed hundreds in previous years.
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First Published: Wed, Jul 15 2009. 12 48 PM IST
More Topics: Monsoon | Agriculture | Farm output | Farming | Power |