Thousands of farmers in India are ruined due to the altered monsoon activity

In view of the delay in the monsoons, the weather department is engaged in studies to set newer annual monsoon schedule

Manish MishraManish Mishra   1 Nov 2019 8:32 AM GMT

Thousands of farmers in India are ruined due to the altered monsoon activity

Sheetala Prasad had his paddy nursery sown on time, but could not do timely transplanting because he waited for the monsoons in order to do that. For the past many years, Sheetala Prasad has been suffering constantly ruined crops due to fickle monsoons.

"From the past so many years it hasn't been raining on time, it is difficult to know when it would rain. Previously, it rained consistently, but now it rains suddenly and heavily and for smaller intervals," rues Sheetala Prasad, who lives in Dewara village in Uttar Pradesh's Barabanki district.

The story of Sheetala Prasad tells of the misery of the several thousand farmers of India who are ruined due to the altered monsoon activity.

The changes in the monsoon pattern has prompted India Meteorological Department (IMD) to constitute a committee to study the monsoons timelines and patterns of rains, which will establish the extent of variation in the dates of monsoon's entry and exit in India.

It is hoped that following the report of the IMD, the newer dates of monsoon's entry and exit would be declared based on current monsoon activity.

The IMD's director general M Mohapatra informed Gaon Connection over the phone: "Along with the change in the monsoon pattern, there is also the change in its dates of entry and exit. Where it rains heavily, where it doesn't -- everything would be studied by the committee. If there is a change, it shall be conveyed to everyone."

The farmers are the worst hit due to flash floods

Currently in India, the date of monsoon's entry is pegged at June 1 from Kerala and its exit from Rajasthan by September 30. If one looks back, one finds that the monsoons have consistently arrived late and stayed longer.

In 2019, monsoons reached Kerala only by June 18 and thereafter, proceeded further. The reason was Cyclone Vayu, which had blocked the monsoons and later contained them in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka till June 21.

Vijay Jodaniya, a farmer from Waisur of Maharashtra's Wardha district explained the weather pattern of the entire state, including Wardha. He said: "Now the rainy days are getting fewer and in these fewer days, it is raining more heavily. Vidharbha witnessed dry June-July and heavy rains in August-September."

The observation of farmer Vijay Jodaniya is supported by Mahesh Pahlawat, head of Skymet, a private organization providing weather information. Mahesh explained: "If one looks at the Long Period Average (LPA), it is evident that it has been raining less. This is due to climate change. Previously, it used to rain consistently, but now the cyclones are getting stronger so we have heavier rains and fewer rainy days."

The farmers are the worst hit due to flash floods. Explaining this, Mahesh added, "When the rainfall meant for several weeks occurs in a single day, the excessive water can't be absorbed by the earth surface and gets drained into the rivers and oceans. Lack of drizzles, coupled with sudden excessive rainfall, causes frequent flash floods. Like this year, Patna, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam and Rajasthan had floods while many other states suffered drought-like situation."

Mahesh Pahlawat, head of Skymet, a private organization providing weather information.

The year 2019 witnessed 33 per cent less rainfall, which is a five-year low, due to delayed monsoon in June and lesser rains. In June, Maharashtra and Kerala had faced drought-like situation.

Believing climate change to be the leading cause, Mahesh said: "India now receives rainfall region wise. For example, in a city, it rains in one part and remaining area keeps dry. This is all due to climate change. At some places, it rains heavily while other places do not get adequate rainfall."

Based on the records of the IMD and Climate Research Unit (CRU), a research paper published in Nature Communication proposes that due to the climate change, the rainfall received from the South-West monsoon has been progressively reduced.

India receives its 75 per cent rainfall due to South-West monsoons from June till September. The Indian Subcontinent receives its maximum rainfall due to South-West monsoons.

However, farmer Vijay Jodania is unperturbed by the IMD's concern around monsoons' movement. He said: "People have long lost faith in the IMD as its forecasts have often failed in the past. Even if they alter the dates for monsoon's arrival, it wouldn't benefit the farmers. The IMD's forecasts are never accurate."

Since the time the IMD has been recording the weather pattern, 2019 has seen the most delayed withdrawal of monsoons by October 10.

Devender Sharma, agricultural expert

Talking about studies being conducted by the IMD to understand the new trends of the monsoons, agricultural expert Devender Sharma said: "Besides farmer, the research wing of the agricultural department needs to respond to the changes in monsoon dates. The research team will have to develop such varieties of seeds fitted to the altered pattern."

He added: "It would be better if the IMD sits with agricultural scientists to declare the new schedule of monsoon. Besides, meetings should be held with the scientists engaged in agricultural research so that the researches are well aligned."

The Indian economy is directly affected by the timely arrival of monsoons and the rainfall they bring along. The 2018 report of World Bank 'South Asia Hotspot: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards' has projected a fall in the living standard of about half the population of Southern Asia due to the changes in monsoon schedule. Due to climate change, agricultural production would fall, labour productivity would decline and other health-related problems would rise.

As per the IMD, in 2018, the country received below-average rainfall, out of the total 36 zones, only Kerala recorded heavy rainfall. While 23 zones received average rainfall, 12 received below-average rainfall.

Dr DS Pai, Head of IMD Pune's Climate Research and Services, not delving much about the studies conducted by the committee constituted by IMD regarding monsoon schedule, said: "After the committee's report, some decision would be taken in the beginning of the new year and then it would be implemented."

Read Also: Southwest monsoon 2019 took everyone by surprise and proved it is the master
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