Mapping the not-so-normal monsoon

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Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Monsoon and its types, spatial and temporal distribution of rains, Kharif and Rabi seasons

Mains level: Heavy dependence of Indian agriculture on monsoon, impact of this dependence and remedial measures


News

Monsoon normal in 2017

  1. South-west monsoon for 2017, has turned out to be normal for the second consecutive year
  2. IMD deems the season ‘normal’ if the all-India quantum of rain falls within a 10% range of its long-period average of 887.5 mm
  3. The 2017 monsoon fell short of the number only by 5%
  4. But there can be many shades of grey to an officially ‘normal’ monsoon

Another bumper year?

  1. In 2016-17, India harvested a record crop of cereals and managed a quantum jump in its output of both pulses and oilseeds
  2. This contributed to a significant bump-up in the agriculture leg of the GDP which grew 4.9% in FY17 compared with 0.7% in FY16
  3. But expecting an encore of that impressive performance just because this year’s monsoon has turned out ‘normal’, would be unrealistic
  4. More than the quantum of rainfall that is dumped on the sub-continent during the four critical months, it is the spatial and temporal distribution of rains that make or break crop prospects
  5. On this score, the 2017 monsoon has been quite whimsical

Patchy distribution

  1. For the purposes of measuring the spatial spread of rainfall, the IMD categorises India into 36 meteorological sub-divisions
  2. IMD’s wrap-up of the recent monsoon season tells us that 5 of India’s 36 sub-divisions received excess rains, 25 received normal rains and 6 witnessed deficient rains
  3. But the devil really lies in the details and the identity of the States that suffered deficient rains really matter to crop prospects
  4. This year’s monsoon has played truant in some key food-bowl States
  5. West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab account for a lion’s share of kharif rice production. But this year’s monsoon has been 29% below normal in Uttar Pradesh and 22% short of normal in Punjab
  6. Madhya Pradesh, which is a critical growing region for the rabi wheat crop, has seen a deficiency of 20%. This will also impact pulses output.

Weak ending

  1. Rainfall in the last two months of the south-west monsoon dictate reservoir storage and soil moisture
  2. This sets the tone for the planting of the winter crops
  3. The rabi season accounts for the whole of India’s wheat and gram harvest, a fourth of the output for coarse cereals and chips in with over a third of the yearly harvest of urad and moong
  4. Oilseeds such as rapeseed and mustard, sunflower and safflower are also predominantly winter crops
  5. Therefore, dry spells in the latter half of this monsoon, taken with deficient rains in key rabi growing regions, can make for less than rosy rabi prospects
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