Prelims level : Environment Mains level : GS-III Technology, Economic Development, Environment
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Why in News:

  • Reportedly, nearly 40% of the country is facing an acute paucity of pre-monsoon rain, causing severe water distress in scorching heat.

Background: / How is the rain deficit scenario?

  • Though summer droughts are very common, the extent and intensity of aridity witnessed this year are rare.
  • The rain deficit has been as high as 48% in the southern peninsula, especially Tamil Nadu and coastal Karnataka.
  • It is nearly 30% in western India, notably Gujarat and large parts of Maharashtra, and 17% and 12% in the Central and north-east region respectively.
  • Shortfalls of 70 to 80% have also been reported from some places.
  • The  overall  countrywide  average  rainfall  between  March  and  May,  2019  remained  23% below normal.

What do monsoon forecasts suggest?

  • The rain deficit conditions across the country are a matter of grave concern. But the redeeming factor is that the onset of the monsoon is round the corner.
  • The rain during the 4-month monsoon season (June to September) is anticipated to be well spread out.
  • It is also expected to be quantitatively normal or somewhat below normal.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast has suggested rainfall to be likely around 96% of the long-period average (LPA).
  • On the other hand, private weather forecaster Skymet has put it at 91%.

What is the Concern Though?

  • The problem is that both IMD and Skymet have forecast that the monsoon would be sluggish/slow to begin with.
  • The reason cited for this is the existence of El Nino (warming up of the Pacific Ocean), which often impairs the monsoon performance.
  • Also, IMD and Skymet differ on the progression of El Nino.
  • The IMD expects El Nino conditions to turn neutral in the second half of the rainy season. But Skymet reckons it to last the whole season, even if in a weaker form.
  • So clearly, there is a possible delay in relief from the current water crisis in some areas.

What is a favourable factor yet?

  • Of the three main facets of drought (meteorological, hydrological, agricultural), the present conditions conform chiefly to the meteorological drought (rainfall inadequacy).
  • Only in some areas, aridity has accentuated to cause hydrological drought, reflected in exhaustion of the surface and groundwater resources.
  • The overall hydrological profile of the country is still positive.
  • The total water stock in 91 major reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission is
  • around 14% above the last year’s corresponding level.
  • It is 3% higher than the long-period average (May, 2019 data).
  • Agricultural drought has, by and large, been averted as the rabi crops have mostly been harvested and the kharif ones are yet to be planted.

What is the Way Forward?

  • An enduring solution to the recurring water crisis largely lies in drought-proofing the vulnerable areas.
  • In-situ conservation of rainwater should be a key priority in this regard.
  • The need is to construct rainwater-harvesting structures at the field, village and watershed levels.
  • Either digging ponds or putting up check dams at suitable sites on the natural water drainage routes should be taken up.
  • This is a time-tested water management practice that has helped people survive even in the chronically arid areas.
  • Piecemeal measures as isolated water conservation works under the rural employment programmes can, at best, offer only limited gains.
  • So what is needed is a broad-based planning, keeping in view the whole watershed, transgressing village, district or even state boundaries.
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