Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A fourth of India in drought

A fourth of India could experience drought this year. The monsoon season in the country has failed to produce enough rainfall for crops. Officials are concerned about how this could effect growth in the county and that it could only deepen the impact of the global recession with an increase in food prices.

From the Hindustan Times, writers Gaurav Choudhury & Zia Haq tell us about India's weather.

After the driest June in 83 years, this year’s monsoon — which brings rain to the Indian subcontinent between June and September — has so far fallen short by more than quarter of the usual amount.

The meteorology department on Monday cut its forecast for the third time, saying monsoon would bring only 87 per cent of the usual rains this year. The monsoon is crucial for sowing of summer crops like paddy as nearly 60 per cent of the country’s farmland has no access to irrigation.

"A terrible situation has arisen due to the failure of monsoon in the country. The prices of common man’s food like dal are going up. The work should be done in the spirit of patriotic duty,” a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Markandeya Katju said while hearing a public interest petition on water crisis.

In Mumbai, prices of pulses such as arhar and tur have increased 77 per cent from a year ago and 11 per cent from a month ago respectively.

Sugar now costs 35 per cent more from a year ago, while potato prices are up 89 per cent from August last year. There are signs of milk and egg prices firming up as fodder prices come under pressure.

Mukherjee said the administration was equipped to handle the problem. “There is no point in pressing the panic button,” he said. “This country managed the century’s worst drought in 1987. We transported drinking water through railways. We organised fodder for the cattle.” In 1987, the country received 29 per cent less than normal rainfall in July, affecting sowing across 6,500 villages and resulting in 7 per cent contraction in kharif crop.

The finance minister said GDP growth this year would still be more than 6 per cent -- a figure that might shine in comparison to economies elsewhere in the world, but not enough to pull millions of impoverished Indians out of poverty.

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