A panel of specialists is giving final touches to a report on the behaviour of the southwest monsoon and the need to revise its normal onset and withdrawal dates that were set in 1941. So far, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) regards June 1as onset date and September 1 as the start of regression, but the monsoon seldom abides by this schedule.
“The report of the committee will be finalised in two months. We will soon take a call on changing these dates. The change may even take place from next year (itself),” said M Rajeevan, secretary, ministry of earth sciences. He did not reveal the possible new normal dates as the report had not been finalised.
“People from Mumbai are used to monsoon’s arrival by June 10, by when they mostly do not get actual rains,” said the scientist. This year, monsoon reached the financial capital on June 25, 15 days after the date set for the city.
The monsoon has changed significantly in the past decade, which saw three droughts, including two in successive years, making it the warmest and driest on record. The first month of the June-September season has seen weak rain for seven of the past 11 years, while the tail end has often lingered two to four weeks beyond scheduled withdrawal.
This has huge implications, particularly the rural economy, as the monsoon delivers 75% of India’s rainwater and hugely influences the mood of the economy and markets, as well as multitudes of irrigation-deprived farmers.
The move to change monsoon schedule has been in the pipeline for about five years now, since the monsoon’s withdrawal began a month earlier on three occasions and by 15 days once.
“It is very easy to declare onset of monsoon as there is clear distinction in features,” said a senior IMD official.
“However, it is difficult to declare withdrawal. Agencies try to be cautious to avoid a situation where rainfall occurs after declaring withdrawal,” noted the IMD official who did not want to be identified.
Vinod Kumar Singh, head and principal scientist, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said, “If the dates are changed, we will have to change our advisories to farmers accordingly. They will have to go for short-duration varieties.”
Dr Mithilesh Kumar, director (research), Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, said, “Due to delayed onset of monsoon over Kerala and its further delayed progress towards north India, there is disruption in normal paddy cultivation. The overall cropping pattern of the country gets affected. A change in sowing dates will help to advise farmers according.” Kumar said Bihar’s farmers can be advised to plant short-duration paddy varieties, which can help clear fields in time for sowing the rabi wheat crop.
Some external agencies have already accounted for delay in monsoon arrival. Dr KP Viswanatha, V-C, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, thinks farmers must be trained and given information about delayed sowing.