Thursday, May 1, 2014

Managing the monsoon

M. S. Swaminathan in the Hindu: Aberrations in monsoon behaviour are not uncommon. What is new is the difficulty in forecasting caused by factors coming under the generic title, ‘Climate change.’

Forecasts by the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum and the India Meteorological Department indicate that the south-west monsoon rainfall may be deficient. Also, there is a possibility of the evolution of an El Niño event during June to September. There is a 45 per cent probability that central, west, north-west and south India will receive below normal rainfall. There is also a 40 per cent chance that eastern States like Odisha, West Bengal, the north-east, and most of Jammu and Kashmir may get normal rains during the south-west monsoon period. Paddy arrivals in the market are also sluggish, indicating that actual production is either lower than the estimated production of 107 million tonnes of rice, or that some of the stocks is being held back in the anticipation of a higher price.

In the current scenario of climate change, predictions of extreme weather events are becoming difficult. In March-April this year, we had unexpected hailstorms and heavy rainfall in parts of central and north-west India. ... In India, unlike in the United States and Australia, agriculture is not just a food producing enterprise but also the backbone of the livelihood security of nearly 60 per cent of the population. Therefore, there is no time to relax in the area of taking anticipatory steps to safeguard food, water, energy and livelihood security in rural India, in the event of an erratic monsoon. We should initiate proactive steps immediately to ensure food and drinking water security for not only people but also for the over one billion farm animal population. Aberrations in monsoon behaviour are not uncommon, having been with us throughout our agricultural history. What is new is the difficulty in forecasting caused by factors coming under the generic title, “Climate change.”

...Right now, the government has enough stock to fulfil the legal obligation of providing 5 kg of wheat, rice or millets per month to nearly 75 per cent of our population. With one widespread drought, the current food stocks may disappear. Even this year, market arrivals of paddy have been as low as 42 per cent in West Bengal, 34 per cent in Bihar and 23 per cent in Odisha. Hence, there is no time to relax in the areas of food production and safe storage...

Monsoon flood, shot by Harsh Mangal, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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