ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dealing with Effects of Monsoon Failures

The deficiency and uneven distribution of rainfall during the 2009 monsoon has brought several issues to the fore: rising water demand from various sectors, regional effects of a drought and the failure of the India Meteorological Department to provide credible forecasts at the disaggregate level. A multi-pronged strategy to permanently deal with monsoon deficiency requires exploring newer drought tolerant and climate-conducive crop varieties, enhancing employment opportunities to non-poor households, and developing a new model that improves the efficacy of the IMD forecast.

The south-west monsoon continues to be crucial in determining levels of agriculture output, farmers’ income and price stability in the country. Serious deficiencies in the monsoon rainfall often result in drought, which has serious implications for the livelihood of the rural population, particularly for low income and poor households. These households are highly vulnerable to any shock in crop-related and other economic activities, water stress, and rise in prices of basic food items associated with drought. The reason for the strong effect of the south-west monsoon on agriculture and other economic aspects is that these rains account for 75% of natural precipitation in India, and they are the principal source of water supply for agriculture and non-agriculture uses. Since the onset of green revolution technology in the mid-1960s, droughts and monsoon failures have not caused as severe an impact in terms of food insecurity, as they used to in the earlier period. Year to year instability in food production has also witnessed a decline in the country over time, particularly after the late 1980s (Chand and Raju 2009). However, the impact of monsoon failure is now being felt more strongly than before because of several reasons. One, public sensitivity to the adverse impact caused by monsoon failure has increased. It is widely felt that in the 21st century the country should be better equipped to deal with such events. The public is no longer willing to accept that the consequences of monsoon failures are treated as purely the effects of nature. They expect quick and effective responses to mitigate the adverse effects of such events. This expectation is not out of place in the present age of information, communication, infrastructure and technology. Two, the impact of water shortage caused by monsoon failure is being felt more strongly now than before due to rising demand for water from agriculture and other sectors. Harvesting of water beyond renewable limits has made it more difficult to meet water deficiencies caused by insufficient rain. Third, increasing commercialisation of agriculture and water-intensive cultivation are subjecting farmers to higher income risks due to weather shocks.

Failure and uneven distribution of rainfall during the monsoon period of 2009 have further renewed interest in our strategy to cope with such events. Predictions about climate change and its effect on rainfall is reinforcing the need to look at our preparedness to face such eventualities. In the light of these factors, we examine options and strategies to deal with monsoon failure and to mitigate its adverse consequences on different sections of the society.

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