Around 225 districts across India are expected to face drought this year over the failing monsoon. The season's deficit is presently at 6.2 percent of the usual.
The 225 districts account for 37 percent of the country's 630 districts for which the rainfall data is available. However, these districts now have a 20 percent shortage with nine of them bearing acute shortage of 60 percent, data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) revealed.
Most of these districts lie in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha with Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh being the worst-hit states with rain fall deficits of 31 percent, 28 percent and 25 percent respectively.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has denied the media reports saying they are "factually incorrect" and that there is "no drought like situation" in the country.
"The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has been monitoring regularly the agricultural situation in the States. During the current monsoon season, the monsoon rains have been normal i.e. 738.8 mm against the normal of 782.2 mm as on 10.09.2017. The overall rainfall in the country is in the category of normal (-6%)... Many States particularly, NE States are receiving heavy monsoon rains," a statement by the ministry said.
The deficits have seen an increase since the end of July when monsoon rains tapered in central and north India. The months of June and July recorded a nationwide surplus of 2.5 percent but the situation has been grim since August with a 17 percent below normal performance until September 12.
"A number of factors worked against the monsoon since July-end. There have hardly been low-pressure circulations since then and conditions in the Indian and Pacific oceans have been unfavourable," D Sivananda Pai, head of IMD's long range monsoon forecasts, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Poor distribution of rainfall has worsened the situation with around 110 districts witnessing excessive (more than 60 percent of normal) rainfall. Torrential rains resulted in the worst floods country has seen in 10 years in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and catchment areas in the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh faced floods as well as drought with the monsoon deficit in the western part of the state at 37 percent, which is the highest for any subdivision in India. There has been a rainfall deficit in 48 of the 72 districts in the state. Five of the 48 districts — Agra, Hamirpur, Mahamayanagar, Amethi and Kushinagar — witnessed an acute shortage of 60 percent or more.
The poor distribution of rainfall is likely to affect kharif output even though data till September 8 shows the sowing area in 2017 is marginally less than it was last year.
But the ministry has said the "kharif crops coverage in almost all the States have been satisfactory and the rains during the period from 1-10 September, 2017 in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha and Jharkhand have improved moisture in the soil. This wide distribution of rainfall has brightened the prospects of kharif production in current season."
The statement added: "However, some areas experienced deficit rains after sowing of kharif crops. The States have already started assessment of impact of less rain in such areas. The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has already given advisories to the States for life saving irrigation, in case of moisture stress."
Poor rainfall has also hit water storage levels, which are necessary for winter crops. The data by the Central Water Commission revealed that live storage at 91 important reservoirs across India was at 58 percent capacity on September 8, the lowest in five years. Live storage was at 74 percent and 59 percent of its capacity during the drought years of 2014 and 2015. It is also lower than the 10-year average of 69 percent.
However, the IMD believes the situation could improve in the second half of September with better rains in central India.
"While the situation in northwest is not likely to change too much, there are indications that central India may get some rain in the next couple of weeks. Monsoon isn't likely to start withdrawing in the next few days," Pai said.