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There was a rainfall deficit of 12% in the monsoon season in India as a whole, and 30% of the country’s area recorded deficient rainfall. Photo: AP
There was a rainfall deficit of 12% in the monsoon season in India as a whole, and 30% of the country’s area recorded deficient rainfall. Photo: AP

2014 a drought year: Skymet

Weather forecaster says rainfall this season has been below 90%, making 2014 a mild-drought year

New Delhi: Private weather forecaster Skymet has termed 2014 as a mild drought year after the June-to-September monsoon season ended with a 12% rainfall deficit.

“This will be the fourth drought since 2000. When we take stock of the whole country, rainfall this season has been below 90%, it is definitely a mild drought," said G.S. Sharma, vice-president of meteorology at Skymet. The forecaster released its end of monsoon report on Wednesday.

Officials from the India Meteorological Department, which has not come out with its end-of-season report, disagree with this assessment and and say that 70% of the country received normal or excess rainfall, although its own definition of a drought year would suggest otherwise.

According to IMD, when the rainfall deficiency for the country as a whole is more than 10% of normal and more than 20% of the country’s area is affected by drought conditions, the situation is defined as an all-India drought year.

This year, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, east Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rayalseema, Marathwada, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura finished the season with a rainfall deficit of 20% or more. There was a rainfall deficit of 12% in the monsoon season in the country as a whole and 30% of the country’s area recorded deficient rainfall.

According to IMD, it is common for drought conditions to exist at a sub-division or district-level even when the monsoon is normal for the country as a whole. For such small areas, IMD defines a moderate meteorological drought when the rainfall is 26-50% below normal and a severe meteorological drought when it is more than 50% below normal.

“Seventy percent of the country has received normal or excess rainfall. Unless rainfall is more than 26% deficit in a subdivision, only then is it a moderate drought in that area. Droughts are a state subject, IMD monitors rainfall and districts with deficient rainfall," said L.S. Rathore, director general of IMD.

Data from IMD shows that almost 23% of the country’s area faced a rainfall deficit of more than 26%, which fulfils IMD’s criteria of a meteorological drought.

The Southwest monsoon is crucial to the country where more than half the cultivated area is dependent on rainfall for irrigation.

The sowing of kharif seeds was delayed this year due to the late arrival and further delay in the advance of monsoon in the country.

The first advance estimates released by the agriculture ministry on 19 September put kharif food grain production at 120.27 million tonnes, the lowest in the last five years and nearly 7% less than last year’s record kharif production.

The expected drop in production, the ministry said, is due to delayed and deficit rainfalls which lowered area under coarse grains, pulses and oilseeds and will show up in lower productivity.

This year’s monsoon has been the worst for the country’s bread basket states—particularly Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. On 2 September, Haryana became the first state to declare a drought in all 21 of its districts. On 16 September, Uttar Pradesh declared 44 of its 75 districts drought-hit. Together, the two states have sought 10,891 crore from the centre as drought relief. The agriculture ministry has sent teams to assess the damage and is yet to announce a relief package.

After poor rainfall in June and a greater part of July, IMD, in its second long-range forecast, cut its original forecast of seasonal rainfall of 93% of the long-period average to 87%—the lowest since 2009. The monsoon ended at 88% of the long-period average for the four-month period ended 30 September.

This year’s monsoon started with a worrying deficit of 43% in June, which dipped sharply to 10% in July, and then 9% in August. In September, monsoon rainfall was actually 8% more than normal.

TCA Sharad Raghavan contributed to the story.

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