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Fears of Drought Begins to Haunt Karnataka

The rain Gods are yet to be pleased and this year's monsoon seems to be out of its real form. The rainfall over the country as a whole was still 49 percent below long period average (LPA) at the second week of July, nearly one month from the advent of monsoon, causing worries of a possible drought in many parts of India especially in Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra. South-west monsoon was weak in all 30 districts of Karnataka and the state recorded a deficit rainfall of 42 percent from June 1 to July 13. Meteorological department has warned that Karnataka and Maharashtra will be the worst affected states in India. Scanty Rainfall Monsoon failed to pick up in the last 10 days in the coastal, north and south interior regions of Karnataka which saw a rainfall deficit of 13, 47 and 51 percent respectively and the regions are slowly moving towards a drought-like condition. The central Maharasthra and Marathawada regions are also going through a tough time as the shortfall is estimated to be around 33 percent and 36 percent respectively. The South Peninsula that covers Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry, Kerala and Lakshadweep, has nearly 26 percent shortfall in rain during the week 28 June- 04 July. Out of 36 meteorological sub-divisions in the country, rainfall was excess/normal in 09, deficient in 11 and scanty in 16 sub-divisions during the week. In other words, while 21 percent area of the country received excess/normal rainfall ever since the monsoon season started, the remaining 79 percent area received deficient/scanty rainfall, according to Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) report. However, the shortfall of rain was not uniform across India as the deficit was estimated to be about 40 percent in north-west India, 28 percent in the South Peninsula, 22 percent in central India, and 13 percent in east and North-East India.

The elusive rain
Low Water Storage and Reduced Agriculture Output Central Water Commission (CWC) says that as of 28 June 2012, the 84 major reservoirs in the country have a supply capacity of 25.36 bcm against 41.01 bcm on 28 June last year. This year's storage is just about 57 percent of the previous year’s level and is 83 percent of the average of last ten years, revealed the CWC report. Karnataka's water crisis is set to worsen as the state's current storage is 59 percent away from its normal storage capacity while in Maharashtra, its 39 percent. The picture is quite bad for the agricultural sector this time as it has been reported that comparing the previous year, rice is sown on 16.3 percent less land this year, pulses 13.9 percent less and coarse cereals 34.6 percent less giving a clear indication as to how poor the October harvest would be. The kharif crops suffered a major setback this year due to deficit rainfall and against the normal area of 2.45 million hectares to be sowed, it was just about 1.59 million hectares sown for all crops in the state as of June 30. Farmers have started resowing in July as the majority of first sowing got destroyed by poor germination due to late rains. The Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center revealed that during the first week of July, 46.8 percent of the total geographical area covering parts of the districts of Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Ramanagara, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Tumkur, Chitradurga, Chamarajanagara, Mysore, Mandya, Bellary, Koppala, Raichur, Gulbarga, Belgaum, Gadag, Chikkamagalur and Yadgir experienced moderate to severe rainfall deficiency for agricultural crops.
What to Expect As the fears of a country-wide drought situation indicates a reduced agricultural input which would adversely affect the government policies aimed at strengthening the weakening economy. Hundreds of villages across Karnataka is predicted to face scarcity of drinking water and the state government has already declared over 125 taluks as drought-hit. As the rainfall deficit reaches new levels, the Union Ministry had written to all the state government earlier this month to prepare themselves to face a drought-like situation and formulate contingency plans. “The states have to take steps for preparedness and response in order to tackle the present drought-like conditions in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka and also to ensure preparedness for any drought-like situation during the South-West monsoon period 2012,” the ministry wrote to the state governments warning them to be vigilant.
Steps Taken and Planned The Food Ministry's Crop Weather Watch Group proposed shifting farmers to alternative crops, outlined various contingency plans to face shortage of animal fodder and asked the state governments, especially severely affected Karnataka and Maharashtra to take a closer look at the water levels in major reservoirs. The Crop Weather Watch Group also said seeds and fertilizers are available in adequate quantity. The Karnataka government has reportedly decided to release Rs.1 crore to each drought-hit villages for meeting the grave situation. The water scarcity has forced the Maharashtra government to take several emergency measures such as releasing water from reservoirs only for drinking and not for agriculture. The state government had hired only 376 tankers last summer, and the grave situation this time has caused it to deploy nearly 2,540 tankers to supply water to 2,145 villages and 6,480 smaller hamlets till June 22 last. In an effort to protect the wheat from damage during the monsoon rains, the central government has reportedly moved nearly half of 6.6 million tonnes (MT) of wheat kept in open to safe places. India seemed to be facing the problem of plenty as the government godowns, with a storage capacity of 64 MT, are overflowing with over 82 MT of food grains. The central government has done part of its duty by issuing a well-studied warning to the state governments about a possible drought situation in several parts of India, but its duty is not over. It has to ensure that the state governments act on its reports and get ready with real time plans to meet the drought situation if it happens. As far as Karnataka is concerned, it was going through a political crisis which has just come to an end with Jagadish Shettar taking over as the new chief minister. He has to realize that drought is looking in his face and he has no time to lose.


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