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Centre asks states to review drought preparedness

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-05-2017 Sayantan Bera

New Delhi: Despite the government’s weather office forecasting a normal south-west monsoon in 2017, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh on Monday wrote to all state chief minister’s asking them to be ready with contingency plans in case of poor rains.

An advance review of drought preparedness will help mitigate the impact of any sub-par rains on farmers, the minister wrote.

According to an official statement issued by the ministry, states have been asked to undertake a review of state of preparedness in line with district-level contingency plans. States have also been asked to review progress of district level irrigation schemes under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) and monitor water conservation works under the centre’s employment guarantee scheme.

Other steps suggested by the ministry include establishment of drought management centres at all state capitals, and restoring irrigation infrastructure and drinking water projects.

Last month, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast a normal south-west monsoon which irrigates more than half of India’s farm lands. Rainfall will be 96% of the long-period average (LPA) with a 38% probability that monsoon will be near normal, IMD said while releasing its first long range forecast. The agency will update these numbers in early June.

IMD’s numbers was based on its forecast that El Niño will hit India during the end of the monsoon season, around the middle or end September. According to IMD, there was close to 50% probability of El Niño prevailing during July-September, which was reduced to around 40% in early April.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon caused by unusual warming in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in atmospheric changes, potentially leading to a poor monsoon.

Even though IMD has predicted a lower probability of El Niño occurring during the monsoon season, there is considerable uncertainty going by forecasts of international organizations.

According to US-based International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s April climate outlook, the probability of El Nino occurring during peak of the monsoon season has increased to about 70%, as per late April conditions over the Pacific Ocean. Other climate research bodies like the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted occurrence of El Niño during second half of the 2017.

A normal monsoon in 2017 will help India sustain the record levels of food production achieved the year before (2016-17) and maintain the rebound in agriculture growth rate estimated at 4.4% (2016-17) due to normal rains in 2016.

Consecutive years of drought in 2014 and 2015 worsened rural distress and led to dismal agriculture growth rates, besides impacting food production, and leading to surge in imports of wheat and pulses.

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