The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has scaled down its full-season forecast for the southwest monsoon this year from normal to deficient, the first indication of a drought in several parts of the country. Director General L S Rathore, in an interview with Sanjeeb Mukherjee, says though rains in August may be normal, the intensity may decline in September. Edited excerpts:
What is the significance of your recent prediction? Are you hinting at a drought in the country this year?
A meteorological drought is when at the end of the four-month southwest monsoon, the overall rainfall across the country is 10 per cent below normal. So, as of now it is difficult to say whether this year would be an overall meteorological drought year. However, any area that receives rainfall that is 26-50 per cent below normal is declared an area hit by moderate drought, while one where rains are 50 per cent below normal is a severe-drought area.
So, is the country heading towards a partial drought?
Yes, going by the rains in June and July, definitely, there is a chance of India experiencing a partial drought this year.
Which areas are likely to witness drought?
Till now, rainfall in Punjab has been 34 per cent below normal. In Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh, rainfall has been 29 per cent less than normal, while in western Rajasthan, it has been 34 per cent below normal. In Saurashtra, the rainfall has been 21 per cent below normal.
What scenario do you expect in August and September?
The rainfall in August would be 96 per cent of the long-period average (LPA). In September, it would be 91 per cent of the LPA (Rainfall in the range of 90 to 95 per cent of the LPA is considered normal).
Are you saying the rainfall in August would be normal, but the intensity would go down in September?
What is the possibility of the El Niño phenomenon affecting the monsoon in India this year?
There is a strong possibility of the El Niño weather phenomenon (which is known to cause less rains over the Indian peninsula) affecting the monsoon in India around September.