Home / Industry / IMD declares an end to droughts in India

New Delhi: There will be no more droughts in India.

Since it can’t control the weather but can control language, the state forecaster India Meteorological Department (IMD) has decided to simply replace the word “drought" to describe poor rainfall with “deficient year" and “large deficient year".

What appears to be an exercise in euphemism is actually part of an effort to help people better understand the terms used in weather forecasts, claimed IMD director general L.S. Rathore.

In a circular issued on Thursday, IMD also changed several terms used by the forecaster based on the recommendation of a committee that was set up by the director general.

While drought is definitely an easier term to understand than “deficient year" and “large deficient year", the latter two better express nuances and differences. After all, there are droughts and droughts.

Over recent years, Numerical Weather Prediction models have improved IMD’s ability to predict weather and rainfall across various regions. Forecasters also have better access to Doppler Weather Radar, satellite and other data to help with decision-making.

“Forecasters have to take advantage of all these developments and improvements so that more useful information is included in the forecasts with more clarity," said an IMD circular.

Still, Rathore admitted that the decision may have been prompted by the fact that droughts have become political.

“There is a lot of politics involved in declaring droughts," he said.

And it’s complicated, he added.

A former director general of IMD, Ajit Tyagi, agreed.

“Drought is not a simplistic subject. IMD can define a meteorological drought, but agricultural and hydrological droughts are different," he explained.

The first refers to a poor agricultural season and the second, low rains.

“Sometimes, rainfall can be good and crops bad or vice-versa," Rathore said.

Both agreed that the states were best equipped to decide whether they were experiencing a drought or not.

The decision to tweak the terminology comes at a time when India is facing the fallout of its worst monsoon in six years, with a 14% rain deficit. A total of 302 districts across India—nearly half the total number in the country—received at least 20% less rainfall than normal in 2015, according to IMD.

At the end of the June-September Southwest monsoon season, 39% of India received deficient rainfall.

According to IMD’s earlier classification, “when the rainfall deficiency is more than 10% and when 20-40% area of the country is under drought conditions, then the year is termed as an All India Drought Year".

However, for some reason, IMD was reluctant to term 2015 a drought year, and said it was up to individual states to make such a declaration.

So far, 10 states have declared partial or complete droughts.

The new language adopted by IMD will mean 2015 was actually a “Deficient Year".

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