The tardy progress of the south-west monsoon, which irrigates more than half of India’s farms, may worsen the drought-like situation prevailing in many states, with overall rainfall deficiency in the first half of June widening to 43%.

The June-to-September monsoon made a delayed onset over the Kerala coast on 8 June and has been advancing at a sluggish pace over the mainland. It lost momentum because of Cyclone Vayu, whose formation in the Arabian Sea coincided with the monsoon onset and ended up draining it of moisture. The cyclone eventually drifted away from the Gujarat coast.

The monsoon is yet to mark its arrival in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Odisha, according to the latest update by the weather department.

As many as 16 subdivisions, including Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, are witnessing deficient rains of over 20%, said the India Meteorological Department.

Fourteen subdivisions, including drought-ridden Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, are facing a deficiency of more than 60%.

Only four subdivisions—Karnataka, Lakshadweep, Saurashtra and Kutch—got normal rains until 16 June. Among states and Union territories, only Delhi has recorded no rain this monsoon season. The country has so far received 39.7mm of rainfall against the normal of 70.2mm for this time.

Adequate rainfall in the monsoon season is critical for India’s agricultural output and the overall economy. A deficit rainfall during the early part of the season could delay sowing and reduce crop output even if rainfall gathers pace later.

While rain remains scarce, water levels in 91 Central Water Commission (CWC)-monitored reservoirs of the country have also gone down. According to the latest CWC report, the live storage available in these reservoirs has shrunk to 18% of the total live storage capacity of these reservoirs and stands at 29.189 billion cubic metres (bcm). The total storage capacity of these reservoirs is 161.993bcm. This may not augur well for farmers who had to delay the sowing of kharif crops due to the late arrival of the monsoon and are dependent on it.

The situation is grim, especially in the western region, covering Gujarat and Maharashtra, where the total live storage available in the 37 CWC-monitored reservoirs is only 10% of the total storage available. The 31 reservoirs in the southern states have also recorded lower water levels as compared to last year.

With weak El Nino conditions still casting a shadow on the monsoon, there is a high probability that this year’s rainfall may end up below normal for July as well. According to IMD’s forecast, it could be 95% of the long-period average of 89 cm, which is below normal for July, when monsoon is expected to cover the entire country.

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