Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Aug 2018 10:30:29

THE scaling down of monsoon forecast to below normal in the months of August and September by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has brought forth the need to turn to contingency measures during the crucial months for agriculture. The downgrading of initial forecasts for a normal monsoon, though, was not unexpected given the rising temperatures all over the world. After the good distribution of rainfall in June and July raised hopes for a bumper agricultural season, the monsoon had lost momentum. Experts do not see it as a grave concern but the shortfall in rains raises the risk of drought in hotspots in the country that are primarily dependent upon monsoon.

Monsoon rains irrigate almost 55 per cent of India’s farmlands. The first two months have seen successful realisation of the initial forecast and expedited the agricultural operations during the Kharif season. Now, the crops run the risk of severe damage should the predicted scenario for August and September come true. Other resources and judicious water management can only ward off the threat of a dry season.

Almost every year, inordinate delays in completing dam projects and criminal disregard towards initiating projects like rainwater harvesting have come back to haunt the authorities in monsoon-deficient months. The scenario is likely to be repeated this year too if monsoon remains below normal in the next two crucial months. Even if the rains recover, there will be uncertainty about production till the end of season leading to volatility in the market with prices of essential commodities going north.

A strict contingency plan must be in place immediately for wise use of the present storage of water. The dwindling ground water tables in many parts of the country call for tight monitoring of the available resources and proper protection of the water bodies from pollution.

This forecast of a deficient monsoon also brings into focus the need for round-the-year management of water by all the stakeholders. Such scenarios demand a stricter monitoring of water use for different purposes. A fine balance needs to be maintained in making available water for daily use, irrigation and agriculture. This is the grey area where all the planning goes awry, for, water storage remains the most neglected aspect in India. In spite of all projects and plans drawn up to increase water storage through various means the implementation part leaves a lot to be desired.

Not that the government of the day is totally indifferent to the problem. Many states have accorded water conservation the top priority through various projects bringing about a big turnaround in rejuvenating water sources and groundwater tables. Maharashtra has successfully implemented the indigenous ‘Jalyukta Shivar’ programme for water harvesting and restoration. Telangana and Karnataka have also done constructive work in water conservation under the MGNREGA. But it remains a worry in many other regions that have wasted the opportunity to put into place an effective water management policy.

Community-driven water conservation facilities is one way of tackling the vagaries of nature. If programmes like ‘Jalyukta Shivar’ are replicated in other rain-deficient regions then it can bring water empowerment to a huge chunk of rural areas that are solely at the mercy of the rain gods.